Today, I wanted to share some thoughts with you, based on some of my recent reflections and conversations.
As you guys know, I started this blog in 2016 to help myself, when I felt totally alone and desperate. But, something incredible happened – the more I focused on this problem and stepped into a place of empowerment, the more I answers I started to find!
Now, my focus is on using what I learned to help others, through my blogs and one on one coaching. And, the more clients I work with, the more I can see that certain patterns are universal!
Today, I wanted to share my top 3 tips for anyone dealing with SI Joint Dysfunction– the 2023 Version 🙂
1. Become your own best advocate
Navigating the world of SI joint dysfunction is unlike dealing with any other injury. The reality is that, in order to find the right treatments, you’re going to have to know what you’re looking for.
SIJD is still not as widely understood as other injuries. If you’d torn your ACL in your knee, or sprained your ankle, you could pretty much go anywhere, and the doctor or PT you saw would be able to treat you.
However, the SI joint is different. Unfortunately, a lot of the doctors and PT’s practicing now never learned about it as part of their schooling. The ones that do, usually learned about it a little later on, *after* developing an interest in that area.That’s why, from the beginning, I focused my blog on the terminology. I was taking courses like anatomy & physiology and kinesiology at the time, and I found it all so fascinating.
I realized the more I could speak the language of the medical professionals I was consulting, the better position I’d be in to make decisions. You’ll see that’s why I have so many posts up from my early blogging days of 2016 outlining topics like the main functions of the SI joint, important terminology and the major structures of the pelvis.
Now, this perspective is something I hope to share with my blog readers and coaching clients. It’s up to you to be your own best advocate.
I really encourage you to learn as much as you can about your condition. Learn the specific terminology and treatments that come along with it.
The more confidently you’re able to speak about your condition, this is how you’ll break out of the cycle of trying one thing after another, and finally what you need to heal.
2. Strengthen all of the muscles you need to support the SI joints.
Okay, this one might sound kind of obvious, but hear me out.
The number one problem my readers and coaching clients run into is that the exercises their PT, doctor, other medical professional gives them are too painful.
So, what do they do?
They stop doing the full routine, and focus only on the exercises that don’t hurt.
This is exactly what I myself did back in the day. I remember telling my various PT’s that I couldn’t do certain exercises in their printout yet, and that I’d have to work my way up to the ones that were painful.
Yet, none of my PT’s explained to me at the time that it doesn’t really work like that.
For example, strengthening the hamstrings isn’t necessarily going to make it easier for you to strengthen the quads. These muscles are antagonists, meaning they oppose each other — check out my previous post on Neueromuscular Control for an explanation of prime movers vs. antagonists!
All of the muscles in the body demonstrate the principle of specificity.
In other words- have you heard the saying, use it or lose it?
Your body only keeps muscles strong in response to the demands placed upon them. The body doesn’t waste energy- it’s not going to strengthen a muscle it doesn’t think you’re going to be using all the time. (This is the point of strength-training – to tell your body to build that muscle up!).
When you only train certain muscles, you’re simply not giving your body the message to strengthen all of the muscle groups it needs to support the SI joints.
The way forward, of course, is to very purposefully make sure you are activating each and very muscle that will help support your SI joints. But how do you do that?
This leads me to my next point.
3. Stay ahead of the inflammatory cycle – Don’t push through the pain!
When it comes to rehab from SI joint dysfunction, your pain level is actually a very important guide.
With some injuries, it can actually be important to push through the pain. For example, my dad had knee surgery when I was a kid. I remember his PT told him it was really important to move his knee through its full range of motion, and that he had to sit through some really painful massages, so his PT could break up the scar tissue.
Based on my experience, SI joint dysfunction is the opposite type of situation. When the SI joint becomes unstable, it’s because the ligaments that are meant to hold the joint in place have become sprained. In other words, that means the ligaments are stretched out, and now the joint isn’t able to stay in place. (That’s true even if your joint is getting “stuck” — there’s a reason why it moved out of place and got lodged in that abnormal position!).
How I got unstuck
Like so many of you, I was caught in a cycle where so many of the exercises my PT’s gave me only made things worse. Every time I tried to push through them, I only ended up feeling worse. And it wasn’t just my pain- my joints would actually become less stable, and it would actually increase the abnormal movement in the joint.
That’s because, when a ligament is inflamed, those chemical byproducts of inflammation actually have an effect on our tissues to make them even more stretchy.
That’s why pushing through the pain doesn’t work– because it’s not a “good,” or productive, type of pain. You’re not like my dad breaking up scar tissue in his knee– you’re actually re-inflaming the ligaments the SI joint needs to stay stable.
So… how do you balance the two factors?
What I discovered is that it’s so important to have a strengthening program that takes your ligaments into account. So many people get stuck in a cycle where they’re working with PT’s and medical professionals who just don’t get it, and give them cookie-cutter strengthening programs. Generic back-strengthening programs don’t work for this, because they continue to place pressure on the ligaments instead of allowing them to rest.
That’s why, to truly move past this injury, you need to be able to strengthen while allowing your ligaments to heal.
The right exercise program will allow you to start building strength, while putting minimal stress on your ligaments– and shouldn’t cause any pain!
Ultimately, I ended up discovering my own routine and set of strategies that let me accomplish these goals. I learned as much as I could about the anatomy & physiology of the joint, and learned all of the technical terms that could help me understand this joint.
Through a process of trial and error, I developed my own exercise routine that let me start building up muscle strength, without placing stress on the ligaments. Using everything I had learned, I found a way to make sure I was activating all of the muscles I needed to, while leaving my SI joints in a neutral position.
Essentially, I found a way to separate my ability to strengthen from the movements of the SI joint itself. After all, it doesn’t make sense to keep putting the joint into positions that are painful in order to heal it!
Check out my post How I healed my SI joints without surgery for more on how I balanced these two factors.
✨Today, my SI joints are stable. I no longer need to correct my alignment constantly (although I have all the knowledge in my toolkit to help myself, if I ever needed to!).
✨Now, I’m able to speak confidently about SI joint dysfunction. I used to think I was the only person in the world who had this problem, and was totally dependent on doctors and chiropractors who didn’t really solve the problem.
✨ Now, I know that I was far from the only one. Through my blogs, I connect with thousands of people all over the world, and use everything I learned to help others!
To learn more
If you guys want to get started on the researching/empowerment piece, I have a ton of posts up that I think will be really helpful for you! You can get started with my What is the SI Joint? and SI Joint Dysfunction pages.
For one-on-one support, I also offer individual coaching calls where we really go over your story in detail. It’s your chance to ask me any questions you have about my own recovery and the strategies I used, and together, we come up with a plan to get you moving forward! I seriously love getting to know you guys, and look forward to meeting more of you. 🙂
I am also excited to announce that I’m currently working on an online course, which will be available as soon as possible! (It will be at *some* point during 2023! (There’s a lot I want to say!).
What did you guys think of the post? Did these tips resonate with you?
Let me know in the comments below!
3 thoughts on “Top 3 Tips for SI Joint Dysfunction – 2023 Version”
I’m sorry you’re having to go through all this. It sounds painful. I have problems with sciatic nerve pain. And arthritis… I’m only 44 lol.
Thanks! It was definitely a saga. Looking back, and after working with all my clients, now I believe the hardest part of all of this is simply not having a strategy, or being able to find anyone to help you.
Once you get the right tools in place, everything gets a lot better.
Sorry to hear about what you’re dealing with — best wishes to you as you continue on your journey!
I wanted to ask you a question on your post, but I had rather not log in by Facebook because than it isn't private. I would really appreciate it if you give me some advice on my issue.
Here is the post: Hi Christy, My right SI joint (because of an amazing chiropractor who fixed my neck) has generally stayed stable this past year. I have put cushions in our car to place my pelvis in the right position and do stretching exercises that help a lot. I normally can walk about 1 hour outside, but the challenge I am facing is that I decided to purchase a treadmill because in the winter months it is too cold and rainy to walk and my muscles quickly become deconditioned. In addition, I need to exercise to help prevent cancer from returning. Almost every time I walk (slowly at the most 1.5 miles per hour and at the most 15 minutes) my right the muscles around my right SI joint all tighten up and I end up with a lot of trigger points to undo. Have you run into this problem and have you any solutions? One of the reasons my SI joint continues to have problems is because I had major cancer surgery in 2018 and followup surgery in 2019 and the resulting scar tissue had a major impact on my body.
Sent: Tuesday, March 21, 2023 at 9:48 AM