Despite not being very well known, sacroiliac joint pain is quite a common form of lower back pain. It is caused by the misalignment and long-term stress on the sacroiliac joints, and usually presents as dull pain or a heavy feeling in one or both sides of the lowest, bony part of the back. On the other hand, the pain can also be intense and acute, with possible referred pain to the groin, hip or even the back thigh. In this blog I demonstrate a few yoga movements that can ease sacroiliac joint pain and tightness. Next month’s blog will focus on how we can make sacroiliac joint pain worse with certain daily movements and habits.
The sacroiliac (SI) joints are semi-moveable joints between the sacrum (the lowest part of the spine with the tailbone at its end) and the hipbones. Strong ligaments and muscles keep these joints stable and in place. However, continued stress on the joints or loose ligaments can cause the SI joints to become misaligned, with dull or intense pain below the waist as a result. The pain is usually more intense on one side but can move from side to side. It tends to get worse when going from sitting to standing, when bending down with straight legs, or getting up in morning. There can be referred pain in the groins, hips and back thigh. What’s more, the lower back muscles can go into spasm when the SI joints are misaligned.
Yoga therapy for sacroiliac joint pain emphasizes:
- Symmetry and core strength (find my video series for core strength here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/videos/).
- Releasing the gluts, piriformis muscle and hamstrings.
- Correcting posture, of the pelvis in particular to relieve the stress on the SI joints.
- Strengthening the hip girdle muscles.
The movements below demonstrate how to ease the pain of SI derangement and stretch the surrounding muscles. To benefit from a complete yoga therapy programme, why not get in touch about private sessions? You can contact me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/ to discuss if and how yoga therapy could help you, and to organise individual sessions or even Skype sessions.
The next blog will focus on how we can unwittingly make SI pain worse in daily movements.
If any of the movements below hurt rather than feel like a gentle stretch, please stop immediately; never stay in a position if something hurts.
Mobilising the lower back
-Lie on your back with the knees drawn up to the chest, one hand on each knee.
-Exhale and bring the knees a little closer to you.
-Inhale and return the knees to the starting position.
-Repeat about 8 to 10 times.
-Now make small circles with the knees together, a few times in each direction.
-Lying on your back, bend both legs and place the right ankle above the left knee.
-Make sure the right and left side of the body are resting equally on the floor and the weight of right leg hasn’t made you heavier on that side.
-If this feels like a sufficient stretch, you can stay in the position for a short while. However, if you don’t feel enough of a stretch, hook your hands around the left leg and bring the leg towards you.
-If it feels comfortable, breathe into this stretch for about a minute and repeat on the other side.
An alternative, and easier for the shoulders, is to rest the lower foot on the wall as in the picture below.
You can also stretch the gluts while sitting on a chair:
All fours rock
-Turn around and position yourself on hands and knees. Gently rock forward and back: exhaling when you move closer to your feet and inhaling as you move closer to the hands. This is a horizontal movement: feel the stretch in the lower back every time you breathe out and move the hips back.
-Look down so that you can also enjoy the stretch for the back of your neck.
-Repeat for about a minute, maybe reaching the hips as far as the feet when you exhale, coming back on all fours every time you inhale.
-Place the toes together and the knees wider. Rest forward with the forehead on your hands or with your head on a chair.
-Use a rolled towel under your feet if your ankles hurt.
-Stay for a few breaths or up to 60 to 90 seconds.
-Visualise the breath going down towards the painful area in the lower back and soothing it.
-Lie on your back with both legs bent.
-Place a yoga belt, an old tie or bathrobe belt around your right foot and extend the right leg to the ceiling for a comfortable stretch.
-It is very important to keep the back relaxed and the hips heavy on the floor so with every exhalation feel the back relax a little more.
-If the hamstrings are tight it is helpful to go in and out of the stretch: straighten the leg as you exhale and bend it again with every inhalation. Then hold the stretch and breathe in it.
-Work towards holding the stretch for 60 to 90 seconds.
Constructive rest position
After every yoga session, however brief, it is important to rest for at least 5 minutes. Resting with the legs on a chair can be particularly soothing for the lower back and the SI joints. Make yourself comfortable with a cushion under your head and a blanket underneath and on top of you.