If you have SIJ dysfunction, this is a really important concept for you to understand.
There are different types of issues that can affect the SI joint, but this was the main problem for me, during the entire five years I struggled with this problem.
The sacroiliac joint is made up by the meeting of the sacrum and the two hip bones, or ilia, on either side. (I describe the anatomy of the joint in more detail in my section What is the SI Joint?).
When one of your SI joints get stuck, what happens is that one of your hip bones has rotated backwards and become wedged against the sacrum. (The scientific way to say is that the ilium has rotated posteriorly). Basically, it gets stuck in such a way that it can’t get back out on its own (not without some help, anyway).
In the image below, I’m using my model pelvis to show you where the hip bone gets “jammed” against the sacrum. My pencil is sticking right into the space between the two (this is looking at the pelvis from the back):
The reason this problem is so confusing, and under-recognized by medical professionals, is that the hip bone doesn’t actually rotate very far at all. We are only talking about a couple of millimeters.
If you were to put someone with a “stuck” SI joint in an x-ray or an MRI machine, they wouldn’t look abnormal. That is why SI joint dysfunction is so hard to diagnose: the joint becomes jammed within what would appear, to most observers, to be its normal range of motion.
But that joint is supposed to be able to move. And, like anything in the body, when you don’t let something do what it is meant to do, that causes problems.
Having healthy, functional SI joints allows us to:
A) Move our legs through their full range of motion as we walk
B) Absorb some of the force that comes from each leg hitting the ground as we take steps.
Once you deprive the SI joint of its full range of motion, you impede these functions.
Even though the SI joint is not intended to have a lot of motion, those few millimeters of motions serve a lot of important functions in terms of our ability to move overall.
When one of my SI joints would become stuck, I wouldn’t really be able to lift the leg in that side. It was really an odd, confusing sensation. I’d have this dull ache in my lower back, and then I’d notice I wouldn’t be able to lift one of my legs. At first, it didn’t even seem like the two things were even connected.
But again, due to the way our pelvis functions as a whole, you need motion at the SI joint in order to move your leg normally.
So, once one of my SI joints wasn’t moving optimally, it also meant one of my hip bones wasn’t moving the way it was supposed to. This, in turn, restricted my ability to move the leg on that side.
And once one of my SI joints was stuck, there was nothing I could do on my own, as an untrained person, to fix it. It was clearly jammed in one position, and all of my attempts to fix it– or even move normally and go about my day– only seemed to make things worse.
Luckily, there are ways to “unstick” a stuck SI joint.
The first way I discovered was through chiropractic adjustments. In fact, my chiropractor, Dr. K. was the first person to even explain to me what sacroiliac joint dysfunction was. He was the one who was able to unstick my SI joint when it got stuck.
However, I would later discover that chiropractic adjustments were too rough on my sprained SI joint ligaments. Even though they were technically putting my joints into place, they were making it harder for my ligaments to heal.
It’s possible to get better.
I’m probably going to jinx myself as I write this, but as of right now, it has been eight months since the last time my SI joints rotated out of place and I needed to adjust them.
Because of what I’ve been through, I feel very passionately about educating others with this condition, so they don’t waste years dealing with something that does have answers, like I did.
I’m going to keep writing and creating resources based on my experiences, and I hope you will stay tuned!
Some related posts:
My Key Points series outlines the different steps of my recovery (of particular relevance to this post is Key Point #6: When someone finally told me only one SI joint could lock up at a time).
And for more anatomy-related posts, be sure to check out my What is the SI Joint? page.
Hope this was helpful!
If you have any questions, you can always leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.