As many of you know, I love getting emails from readers because they compel me to think about SI joint concepts in different ways, and come up with better ways of phrasing things than I might otherwise.
I recently heard from a man who had been very active in things like running, rock climbing, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. He had to put all of these things on hold when he developed SI joint dysfunction 6 years ago.
Since then, he had worked with various physical therapists and chiropractors with little success, until discovering something called the Gokhale method. I had never heard of the Gokhale method personally, however apparently it emphasizes good posture and strengthening the transverse abdominis muscle, which I am all about!
However, he hadn’t yet been able to get back into any of the exercise or activities he loved, so he reached out for my advice. He wanted to know what my daily life is like now, and whether I thought things like running, rock climbing, and Jiu Jitsu would be possible for him.
So… here’s what I said! Check it out:
I was able to get back to living a mostly-normal life. I never never went back to was running for exercise. I can run to catch a bus, or if my dog gets out 🙂 But I’ve never taken the chance of doing it intentionally for exercise, because of the risk of re-injury. But that’s just been a personal choice because I’ve had previous injuries from running as well. It’s possible that I could be running, maybe short runs of 2-3 miles.
Other than that, I do pretty much whatever I want in daily life. A big thing for me is that I can go out for an evening with my friends and keep up, and no one can really tell I’ve had an injury. I like to dance, so it’s been great that I’m able to keep up on a dance floor.
I also love nature, so it’s been really great for me that I’ve been able to go for short, relatively gentle hikes of 1-2 hours. I’ll probably never do an all-day hike, but again that is sort of a personal choice. I feel like I pushed my body too far as an athlete when I was younger, so now I try to take a more measured approach.
There are certain things that I still know to never do. For me, I’ve found that massage therapy can actually backfire, when the therapist puts too much pressure on my SIJ’s. I know those ligaments will always be vulnerable, so I don’t risk it.
I also know that foam rolling, where I actually put my pelvis on a foam roller, would instantly push my joints out of alignment as well. That’s something I don’t think I could ever build up enough muscle strength to overcome. But also, on the plus side– neither of these things are really that important to me. I have a great massage therapist who I’ve worked with over time, as well as a thorough stretching routine, so I’m able to keep my muscles loose enough.
A big thing for just about anyone with SIJD is twisting. As I learned from one of the PT’s I shadowed, that’s the movement where the SI joint is the most vulnerable to the forces travelling through it. I’m not too familiar with BJJ, but I’d imagine twisting might be a big part of it. Motions that require you to twist quickly, or also potentially having someone hit you in the area of the SI joints, could both possibly cause a risk of reinjury.
This is not to say it’s impossible– but it’s just good to know what your risk factors will be.
I’d ever heard of the Gokhale method, but I looked it up and I’m glad to see transverse abdominis strength is a big part of it. Keeping that muscle strong will be the key to supporting your SIJ’s during twisting.
About rock climbing– I think this may have a lot to do with exactly how hypermobile your joints are. The word hypermobile can actually have two meanings as it relates to the SI joint. One meaning is the way you meant it– meaning the ligaments have been stretched out and allow the joint to move around too much.
However, the other meaning has to do with the mechanics of the joint itself– that, you can’t change. It’s just what you’re born with.
My joints are extremely hypermobile in this sense– the way the sacrum and the ilium fit together makes them vulnerable to injury. So once my ligaments were sprained, it was sort of a double whammy. (Here is a post I wrote which explains more about the different types of hypermobility).
I think you may be able to get into rock climbing if your joint shapes themselves are not terribly hypermobile. If you’re able to build up enough muscle strength, I think your joints may be able to support you. It will all depend on the angle of how your feet/knees/hips relate. As I understand it, rock climbing is all about precision and foot placement anyway, so as long as you are really careful and plan each movement carefully, it may work.
As you get stronger I think you will need to pay specific attention and identify where your weak areas are. See how stable you feel as you twist. Try climbing halfway up the rock wall at an indoor rock gym and see it goes.
I think moderation and mindfulness will both be the key for you. But as long as you are diligent and pay careful attention– don’t get impatient and just push it– I think more possibilities should open up for you in the future.
Okay, so that just about sums up my email! I hope those of you who read it here found it helpful as well!
For more info on these topics, here are some related posts:
- 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
- The goal of strengthening is to maximize your body’s own support system.
- Ligaments of the SI joint
- The point I’m at now: where muscle strength finally takes over for weak ligaments
That’s all for now! Any questions, leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.