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Understanding and Managing SI Joint Pain: A Common Concern

Updated: May 2

Cynthia Luo, RMT - Registered Massage Therapist

si joint pain

Quite often, I hear from our clients, "I have pain in my lower back/glutes." Many times, I find out that the pain is related to the SI joints, or it is SI joint pain. The pain could be on one side or both sides. In some cases, the pain is so severe that it can affect people’s daily lives, making it difficult to sit, walk, or stand for extended periods. The pain can also cause poor quality of sleep.

The full term for SI joint is Sacroiliac Joint. The sacrum is a triangular part of the spine located just above the tailbone. The iliac is the top edge of the pelvis. The SI joint is located where the sacrum meets the iliac, and they are connected by strong ligaments. These joints are among the largest joints in our bodies. SI joints have no movement by themselves; their movements are caused by other body parts' movements, such as walking, running, cycling, stretching, etc.

Pain from SI joints can refer to the lower back; the joints are located along the sciatic nerve route, so if sciatica is triggered, the pain can be felt in the glutes and even down to the legs and feet.

The reasons for SI joint pain include long periods of sitting, standing, walking, running, cycling, arthritis, pregnancy, etc.

  1. Long periods of sitting or cycling can concentrate all the upper body weight on the sacrum and SI joints, causing tightness in the area. Once the tension reaches a certain degree, soreness/pain can start.

  2. When standing, walking, or running, the upper body weight is transferred through the SI joints to the hips & legs, where the joints function as cushions. Prolonged activities can trigger the joints and cause discomfort.

  3. Arthritis is a degenerative disease that can affect any joint in older people, but it can also occur in young people if they overdo certain activities or do not protect their joints properly. SI joint arthritis can occur like any other joint.

  4. SI joint pain is very common in pregnant women. As the trimesters progress and body weight increases, it is easier to experience pain.

Suggestions to avoid/reduce SI joint pain:

  1. Avoid long periods of sitting or certain activities. Take breaks to avoid consistent pressure on the joints.

  2. Use a heating pad for the pain and surrounding area. Heat therapy is beneficial for many chronic pains. If you have arthritis, use low to medium heat only. Once the tension is reduced with heat, the pain should decrease.

  3. Standing exercise: Move both arms from front to up, while simultaneously moving your neck backward and your body forward, then back to the normal standing position. Repeat this 20 times or until you feel comfortable. It can help relax the spine and reduce pain.

  4. Sitting Figure 4 Stretching: Sit on a stable chair, flex one knee, and place the calf on the top of the other thigh. Slowly lean your body forward, stopping when you feel the most stretch in your back. Hold for 20 seconds or a comfortable length of time. Relax a little, then repeat the stretch several times.

Massage therapy is an important way to help relieve SI joint pain. I have successfully helped many clients suffering from this condition. So, book your appointment if you need help. You will be in good hands.

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