If you’re experiencing low back pain, there’s a good chance that it’s related to your sacroiliac joint (SIJ) and you don’t even know it.
The SIJ connects the sacrum to the right and left iliac bones, which are the large bones that form your pelvis. These joints support the weight of your entire body when you are upright, and help you to balance and absorb shock to the spine as you walk, run, stand, etc. For the most part, they are immobile and allow for just a few degrees of rotation. Strong ligaments and muscles support the SIJ. However, these ligaments and muscles can become tight, loose, weak, or injured, which leads to pain. Common causes of SI joint pain include frequent sitting, poor posture, and injury. (1)
As we age, our bones can become arthritic, ligaments stiffen, and cartilage wears down. This causes the bones of the SIJ to painfully rub together. Poor posture stemming from frequent sitting, wearing shoes like high heels, or genetics can lead to a pelvic tilt and lumbar lordosis. This causes painful compression and tightness of the SIJ.
A sign that your lower back pain is being caused at the SIJ is pain starting in the lower back and buttock. This pain may radiate to the lower hip, groin, or upper thigh. You may also experience numbness or tingling, or a feeling of weakness in the leg.
Luckily, there are easy stretches and exercises that help to improve and even eliminate SI joint pain by increasing flexibility, strength, and stability. (2)
Relieve pain and tightness by practicing these simple stretches 1-2x per day. All you need is an exercise mat.
Wall Hamstrings Stretch | 30 sec
This stretch loosens up tightness in the outer hips and hamstrings that can lead to pain in the SIJ.
- Begin by sitting facing a wall. Place your hands on the floor behind you to support your upper body.
- Bend your left knee and tuck your left heel in towards your right sitting bone. The outside of your left thigh and calf should be touching the ground.
- Straighten your right leg up the wall for a hamstrings stretch. The closer you are to the wall, the deeper the stretch will feel.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Child’s Pose | 30-60 sec
This yoga pose relieves compression of the SI joint by opening up the glutes, outer hips, and lower back.
- Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Separate your knees out wide to the edges of your mat and bring your big toes together to touch.
- Slowly sit your hips back on your heels. Then, walk your hands forward until you can lower your forehead to the ground.
- Continue walking your hands out in front of you until your arms are straight but your shoulders are relaxed, away from your ears. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
Standing Quad Stretch | 30 sec per side
This stretch releases tight quads and hip flexors that can lead to SIJ tightness.
- Begin by standing next to wall. Place your left hand on the wall.
- Shift your weight into your left foot and pick up your right foot. Reach back with your right hand, bend your right knee, and catch hold of the outside of your foot.
- Stand tall with your abs engaged. Bring the inside of your knees together to touch and gently press your hips forward. You should feel a stretch through your right quadriceps and the front of your hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Broken Bridge | 30-60 sec
This relaxing stretch releases the hip flexors and outer hips, helping to reduce a pelvic tilt and stress on the SIJ.
- Start by lying down with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
- Bring your knees to touch and heel-toe your feet out wide towards the edges of your mat. Take your feet as wide as you can while keeping your knees together.
- Place your palms face down on your hip bones and relax here for 30-60 seconds.
Gluteal Sets | 12 reps
SIJ dysfunction can be relieved by strengthening the muscles around it. This exercise gently strengthens the glutes.
- Begin by lying face down with your legs straight back behind you. Stack your palms and rest your forehead on the back of your hands.
- Inhale to squeeze your glutes together. Hold for a moment, then exhale to relax them.
- Repeat for 12 reps.
Single Knee into Chest | 30 sec per side
This stretch relaxes the hip flexors, lower back, and glutes.
- Start by lying down on your back with your legs out long.
- Hug your right knee into your chest and interlace your fingers around the top of your shin.
- Continue to squeeze the knee in towards your chest and feel the stretch in the front of your left hip.
- Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Double Knees into Chest | 30 sec
This stretch relaxes the muscles of the lower back, glutes, and hips to relieve tension on the SI joint.
- Lie down on your back with your legs out long.
- Lift both of your knees to your chest.
- Place your hands on top of your shins and hug your knees to your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. You should feel your lower back releasing.
Gentle Supine Twists | 30 sec per side
This stretch brings movement, strength, and flexibility into the hips, abs, and lower back, helping to relieve pressure on the SI joints.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
- Cactus your arms so that your elbows are in line with your shoulders and engage your abs. Lift your feet up and bring your shins parallel to the floor.
- Inhale, then exhale to slowly lower your knees towards the right side of your mat, twisting your torso. You can place your left palm on your right thigh to deepen the twist and hold for 30 seconds.
- Then, use your core strength as you inhale your knees back up to the center. Switch sides.
(Your Next Workout: 11 Easy Bodyweight Exercises for Lower Back Pain)