Here’s another concept which I wish someone had explained to me differently back in the beginning.
As I’ve mentioned in previously, when I first began experiencing SI joint dysfunction, the only people who really seemed to be able to understand my problem were chiropractors.
I had one main chiropractor that I went to – Dr. K. – but as time went on I saw a couple of others, mainly for scheduling and location reasons. Ultimately I had three chiropractors that I went to semi-regularly over this five year period.
What I liked about these three is that they all had a philosophy that was closely aligned with mainstream medicine. They never promised their adjustments alone were going to “cure” me.
Instead, all three told me that what I really needed to be doing for long-term recovery was to build muscle strength, so my adjustments would “stay in place.”
And technically, they were right. I didn’t get better until I got stronger (with a few other factors that had to fall into place as well).
Here’s what I wish I had understood, though.
The way they phrased their advice– “build muscle strength so your adjustments stay in place” set me off on a course of action that wasn’t necessarily the most useful for me.
It put me in this mindset that everything still, ultimately, came down to the adjustments. Now I understand that this isn’t the best way to think about it.
Here’s the right way:
There are several factors that the SI joints depend on to function optimally. I elaborate on these more in my post about Form and Force Closure, but essentially, some of the major factors include:
- how the surfaces of the bones in the joint (the ilium and sacrum) fit together– varies from person to person
You can’t do much to change your bone shape (surgery is pretty much the only way around that). And ligaments, once sprained, are hard to heal.
What you can do is strengthen your muscles.
It’s not just about holding your adjustments in place– it’s about improving one of the major support systems your body already has.
My chiropractors’ way of phrasing things put me into this mindset where I thought the goal was to keep my joints in the exact position they were in every time I left their office. I knew I needed to get stronger, but I felt as though in the meantime, I should be running back to the chiropractor as soon as I felt things move “out of alignment.”
Ultimately, this backfired– it turned out I was getting adjusted way too much, and that, actually, I probably shouldn’t have been receiving any adjustments to my SI joints at all.
Healing is a delicate balance. If your SIJ’s are prone to locking up, as mine were, it probably isn’t something you can necessarily exercise through. And it can be debilitating and painful.
So you likely will need to get help to realign your SI joints (although I strongly recommend the Muscle Energy Technique over chiropractic adjustments).
But the point is not to frame the idea of “recovery” around adjustments. Instead, you want to frame recovery around recovering the stability systems inherent in your body:
👉 Strengthening your muscles, and
👉Stabilizing your ligaments.
The stronger and stronger I became, the more I began to see how needing frequent adjustments was really just a symptom of the problem. Once my muscles were strong, they took a lot of force off of the SI joints, and I found I was able to stay in alignment for much longer.
And you don’t necessarily need chiropractic adjustments to get there. They are one way of realigning your joints, to take the strain off of your ligaments and allow your muscles to function optimally, but in my experience, they are not the best way.
I wish all physical therapists out there could show you how to use the MET to align your joints. Finding a PT to teach me was quite a process.
But again, it does seem as though awareness of the SI joint is growing every day, including in physical therapy (examples here and here), so hopefully it is something that will be possible for you.
In a nutshell:
Don’t frame your idea of recovery around adjustments. That is about something outside of yourself; it’s the wrong way to go.
Instead, it’s about doing whatever you can to maximize your body’s own systems for SI joint stability. There is so much potential there. And you don’t necessarily need the help of a chiropractor to get there.
Rather, you’re trying to give your body the tools it needs to create stability for itself.
For more on strengthening, check out:
- Three major muscle groups to strengthen for SI joint dysfunction
- The most important place to start strengthening: the core & transverse abdominis
- Start building core strength with exercises that are gentle on the SI joints and lower back
And for further reading:
Hope this was helpful!
6 thoughts on “The goal of strengthening is to maximize your body’s own support system.”
This is a great article. I’m still learning about the SIJ so this was great and I will check out those related articles. Thanks for sharing!
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Glad it was helpful!!
Hi! I’m 29 and we have similar stories. Did your si joints ever crack and pop? That is my sure sign of instability. I’m worried that no amount of muscle building will stop the joints from cracking (and it’s not a good kind). PRP has helped some but I know I need to start strengthening again once I heal.
Hi Andrea, I agree with you about the cracking and popping being a sign of instability. I used to have a lot of that myself, at times.
I won’t say that it *never* happens to me now, but the frequency is greatly reduced now that I’m more stable. Basically, the more strength you can build up in your muscles, the more force they’ll be able to absorb when you do things like walk, twist, bend, etc. So that force that’s travelling through your joints right now, and altering their alignment, will instead be absorbed by your muscles as part of an overall system.
I hope that helps!
mine pop and crack too! Did you find that it went away after building your strength? I hope so because I am on the same journey 🙂
Yes definitely! You just gotta stabilize it!