A bunch of people have been reaching out to me with questions recently, and it’s made me realize that maybe I need to make this a little more clear.
I got better. And so can you.
It was not easy. It took me 5 years to figure all of this out –which is why I work so hard to share it on my blog– so that, hopefully, it won’t take others as long!
You can read about all of the pieces I had to figure out in my series Key Points of My Recovery. I’m also planning to release an e-book of the exercises I found helpful, and also have a few more Youtube videos up my sleeve.
Ultimately, it came down to striking the right balance, while also never giving up.
I had to seek out professionals, but also weigh their advice about what I knew to be true about my own body. No one person was able to provide all of the answers for me– there were people who were incredibly helpful along the way, but ultimately, I am the one who had to put all the pieces together for myself.
This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault (although there was certainly a wide range in skill level, among the people I encountered). The thing is, the SI joint is so unique from person to person. The things that hurt us, and the things that help us, can be very individual. So I had to weigh the advice given to me with people who had the training, as well as the experience treating others, to really give me some perspective and ideas. But ultimately I had to be the decision maker, and realize if maybe something wasn’t turning out to be quite so helpful.
At my worst:
- I couldn’t walk normally without limping, because one of my SI joints would be locked up
- I felt like one leg was dramatically longer than the other
- I couldn’t bend over and pick things up off the floor
- I couldn’t go out in public easily– if I did, I had to walk very slowly and carefully, avoiding pronounced twisting movements
- At social events, I had to spend most of my time sitting down
- I was a student at the time (physical therapy prerequisites) but I know I could not have had a job that required standing, walking, or even sitting in a chair for a prolonged period of time (which rules out just about every job).
- I had lower back pain, upper back pain, neck pain, and sometimes even jaw pain
- I have days where I forget I ever had SI joint dysfunction (although I’ll never totally forget– more on that later)
- I’ve gone as long as 9 months at a time without having any SI joint pain
- I can go out in public, keep up with my friends, go out dancing, and no one can tell I ever had an injury
- I can clean, bend over and pick things up off the floor, and generally do what I need to do on a daily basis
- I still do the majority of my tough workouts in the pool, but I enjoy going for nature walks and gentle hikes of 1-2 hours (think sneakers, not hiking boots)
- In addition to my pool workouts, I do gentle strength training exercises like this isometric glute squeeze, in order to maintain my progress
Why I am still careful:
The thing to remember about SI joint dysfunction is that it involves a sprain to the ligaments that are meant to hold the SI joint in place:
This is similar to other injuries which involve sprains of the ligaments, such as ankle sprains.
Have you ever heard the saying that “once you sprain an ankle once, it will always be easier to sprain it again?”
This is because of the unfortunate reality about ligaments, which is that once they’ve been sprained, this means they’ve been ever so slightly stretched beyond their normal range of motion. And, unlike other tissues in the body, ligaments don’t receive a great blood supply. They don’t heal as well as muscles or even bones do. Ligaments never go back, completely, to the way they were.
That’s why it’s so important to keep your muscle strength up in your core, as well as the muscles that surround the joint.
I work out in a pool regularly, and I also do a routine of very gentle (but effective) exercises for the core and the muscles around the SI joints, using my awesome stretching table.
It’s also important to be aware of the movements, activities, and other factors that tend to put a lot of strain on your ligaments.
No matter how stable I get, there are certain things I won’t do:
- I won’t let a massage therapist work directly on the area around the SI joints
- I won’t let a chiropractor (or anyone else) perform any sort of adjustment to the SI joints (not that I would need it, because I’m doing well, but sometimes people still offer to do things because they’re trying to help)
- I won’t lie with my pelvis resting on a foam roller– something about having my weight rest in an uneven way, or only on a few localized points, is bound to throw off the equilibrium in the pelvis
These are all things that have made my SI joints move out of place in the past. That’s because, without those ligaments holding things in place in the way they’re supposed to, the joints are so much more vulnerable.
Generally, the way I’m able to maintain my recovery and move around and exercise is by relying on the strength I’ve built up in my muscles. However, I know the above activities could still place too much pressure on the joints, and frankly- none of them are terribly important to my life right now, anyway– so I just don’t do them.
So that’s what I mean when I say I sometimes forget that I had SI joint dysfunction… but I never want to totally forget.
Have I gotten back into running?
The answer, right now, is no. Technically I can run short distances (like to cross the street, or to catch my dog) and I haven’t encountered any problems.
However, at this moment in time, I’ve decided not to push things. The thing is, this is not only due to my SI joint dysfunction. I have a long history with running, which dates back to my days in high school with an eating disorder, and developing compartment syndrome. There are a lot of issues wrapped up in it for me, which is why, right now, I prefer to leave that idea on the back burner.
I’ve also come to genuinely enjoy my pool workouts, and as someone who has had a lot of different injuries over the years (remember how I also had chrondromalacia patella in my knees?) I’ve really come to enjoy having the ability to work out as hard as I wanted to, with such a reduced risk of injury.
I am totally fine now, and at peace with everything that’s happened. And I’m excited to help other people move on with their lives, too!
For more on the exact steps I took, check out Key Points of My Recovery.
There is also a bunch of into in my Strengthening section and…. eventually… I will be releasing an SI joint exercise e-book!