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Rehabilitation for Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction: Do’s and Don’ts

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Anyone who has suffered from sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain knows the pain is all too real – in the lower back, in the hip, and even down the legs. It makes daily activities such as rolling over, sitting down for more than one hour, or getting in and out of the car difficult, and it can lead to more pain and dysfunction if you’re not aware of how to move and exercise properly without further injuring your SIJ.


In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best ways that can help you maintain flexibility and protect your SIJ and some of the activities that increase pain and should be avoided.


SIJ Rehab: Do’s


Ice It. Applying ice or cold packs in 15 to 20-minute intervals is the first thing you can do to reduce irritation and relieve SIJ pain. Depending on the duration and intensity of your pain, you can prolong ice therapy anywhere from 2 to 14 days. Application of heat can also speed up the healing process, but not during the high-intensity pain as it will make the inflammation even worse.


Stretch It. When you’re suffering from SIJ pain, performing a combination of yoga, stretching, and strengthening exercises will help restore normal movement and range of motion. Exercises such as hamstring stretches, lower trunk rotations, hip extensions, or isometric hip adductions are aimed to gently move your SI joint and stabilize it. Working with a licensed chiropractor to design an exercise plan that is right for your condition will ensure that you don’t put further strain on your joints.


Needle it. As strange as it may sound, having a tiny needle inserted in your ear may prove extremely helpful in relieving SIJ pain during flairs. Auriculotherapy, a form of acupuncture, is based on the premise that some of the body’s meridian energy lines of force connect at the external ear, thus creating a localized reflex system connected to the nervous system. A trained acupuncturist will be able to work on the point in your ear connected to the sacroiliac joint to ease your symptoms right away.


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Massage It. Massage therapy usually provides immediately relief for patients with SIJ dysfunction, and when incorporated into your treatment plan and complementary activities, such as stretching and posture modification, it will provide long-lasting results. Depending on the type of SIJ dysfunction you have, you can choose between gentle techniques or more energetic modalities, such as deep-tissue massage, to improve hydration and circulation to the irritated joint tissues.


SIJ Rehab: Don’ts


Maintain your previous (incorrect) posture. Achieving and maintaining a neutral spine alignment is crucial for those who are tired of living in pain all the time, for several reasons. The natural curvature of the spine helps cushion and protect your back, optimizes breathing and facilitates the circulation of nutrients, uses the least amount of energy to maintain your position, and places the least amount of stress on the tissues. Postures to avoid in case of SIJ dysfunction include:

  • Sitting with your legs crossed
  • Placing your weight on one hip while standing
  • Bending at the waist
  • Climbing stairs or walking up steep inclines

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Rest too much. While bed rest is recommended to prevent placing further strain on your painful joints and decrease irritation, resting too much thinking it would heal the pain faster won’t do you any good. In fact, avoiding activities will cause your muscles to shorten and tighten, which means you will have more trouble moving around, thus be in even more pain, both physical and emotional.


Carry on with your exercise routine. As sacroiliac joint dysfunction will likely occur due to placing excessive pressure on the SI joints, it is strongly recommended to update your exercise routine by eliminating all movements that increase the load and strain bore by these joints. The exercises you should steer clear from next time you’re hitting the gym include crunches, exercises that involve twisting or turning, sit-ups, and the like. Weightlifting, golf, cycling, or contact sports should be avoided completely as they can exacerbate your pain in the SI joints or result in injury.


Even if your pain has subsided and you’re excited to be returning to your old self, keep in mind that sacroiliac joint dysfunction has a tendency to return. The main reason is due to insufficient rehabilitation, particularly failing to stretch and strengthen hip and core muscles.


Consult with your local chiropractor to find out what’s causing your SIJ pain to return and what therapies are suitable to keep your joints in optimal condition. Your therapist will assist you in designing the best exercise routine for you to continue indefinitely and guide you to achieve and maintain sacroiliac joint stability and function.


About the Author

Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.


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