I’ve been getting a ton of requests for info on the stretches that helped me recover from SI joint dysfunction. In this post, I thought I’d focus specifically on the hamstrings.
The hamstrings are a pretty major muscle group in the body– they run up and down the back of your thigh, connecting the back of your knee to the bottom of the pelvis. (Technically there are three muscles that make up the hamstrings, as you can see in this diagram).
When the hamstrings are tight, they can contribute to SI joint dysfunction by pulling the hip bone backwards and down, out of its optimal position.
The best way to keep muscles from getting tight, of course, is to stretch regularly. Ideally, you want to stretch after you’ve done your workout as well as a gentle cool-down. Your muscles will still be warm from your workout, but you want to bring your heart-rate down gradually, instead of just stopping.
After you’ve done your cool-down is when you want to stretch.
Ways to stretch
Once I had developed SI joint issues, I found that a lot of the stretches my first few physical therapists prescribed actually made me worse.
It’s not that the stretches they gave me were “bad”– it’s simply that, once my SI joint ligaments had been sprained, they couldn’t handle getting in to the positions I needed to be in to do those stretches.
What I finally learned, with the help of my fifth physical therapist Paula, is to find ways to stretch that limited the negative impacts on my SIJ’s as much as possible.
I found that the best stretches allowed me to keep my SI joints supported and my weight evenly balanced.
When you stretch, you only want to stretch your muscles— you NEVER want to stretch the joint itself. If you stretch the joint, you’re really just stretching out the ligaments, which you actually want to heal and tighten back up as much as possible.
So, the key to stretching is to find ways that allow you to stretch your muscles while impacting the joint itself as little as possible.
Below are some some videos from the Pain Therapy Youtube channel which demonstrate various separate ways to stretch the hamstrings. ALL of the videos I’m including here are totally correct and, generally speaking, safe ways to stretch. I would never include anything on this blog that I thought was factually incorrect.
However, things are a little different when you have sprained SI joint ligaments– and that’s what I’m here to explain in this blog post.
Support the SI joints from side to side
These first two videos are the stretches that I do. Whether you’re sitting down in a chair or lying on your back, you can see that your two SI joints are both more or less supported. You have your weight divided almost equally across both sides of your pelvis, and both SI joints:
For me personally, the top two ways of stretching work much better than the following stretch. I really mean nothing negative against the next video at all– again, I would never include anything here that I really thought would steer you wrong. This is a perfectly legitimate way to stretch that I’m sure I’ll prescribe to *some* of my future PT patients someday.
However, in my personal journey with SI joint dysfunction, I would stick with the stretches in the first two videos above, rather than this last one. Why?
When you’re standing up like this, the SI joints are not supported, unlike the other stretches where they’re resting on a surface.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you do a stretch like this last one, you’re placing a lot more of your weight on the back leg versus the front leg. And the more weight you put on one side, the more stress you are putting on ligaments on that side that have potentially been sprained. So, in general, I found that it was less stressful on my joints to try to stay in my positions where my weight was as balanced as possible.
So, in a nutshell:
You want to aim for a stretching routine that allows your SI joints to be supported, and also allows your weight to be distributed between the two joints as evenly as possible.
I’m grateful to my PT Paula for showing me so many different ways to stretch, and helping me to see that if a certain way of stretching didn’t work for me, there were other ways I could stretch the same muscles.
Having the right place to stretch is important
As I’ve mentioned previously, another factor that held me back from pursuing a thorough stretching routine for a long time was simply that I didn’t have the right surface to do my stretches on.
It seemed so easy to stretch at physical therapy, where they had special tables set up at just the right height to get on and off. At home was another story– my bed was too soft, and it often made my SI joints lock up if I just tried to get down onto the floor.
That’s why I was so grateful when I finally discovered this stretching table from Sierra Comfort. I’ve had mine for a little over two years and I totally love it.
Once I owned this table, it was easier to do the things I needed to do to move forward with my life, without wondering if I was inadvertently going to make things worse in the process.
Okay, I think that’s just about everything for now!
For more on stretching, you can check out:
Hope this was helpful! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!