6 Popular Pain Relieving Moves for a Sore Sacroiliac Joint

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Low Tech Moves for Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Spinal curve.
Spine pain. Genna Naccache/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Many people with sacroiliac joint instability report that it is a painful and debilitating experience — on a daily basis.

From physical therapy to fusion surgery, the SI joint treatment field is booming with possible options. And as advances in medicine and surgery continue to be made, many of these solutions are high tech in nature.

Just the same, many people find relief, whether temporary, permanent, or both, in a low tech way — with gentle, skillful body movement.

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Warm Up Your SI Joint

A woman lies in the supine position and stretches one knee to her chest.
Supine knee to chest stretch. Forgiss

It's generally best to start your SI joint exercise session with the easiest possible move. This is just good injury prevention, because the body's tissues need to be warmed up before the joints can be safely stressed.

Warming up also provides a change to check your pain "barometer," or those feelings and sensations that help you put safety limits on what you allow yourself to do.

For sacroiliac pain, as well as many other types of back problems, lying supine — on your back — provides a lot of support. This, in turn, may help release excess tension that contributes to the misalignment.

One Leg Knee to Chest Stretch

In the supine position, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.

Gently grasp one knee and bring it towards your chest. Don't worry — you don't have to get your knee all the way to the chest. Instead, go only as far as you can without pain or a feeling of insecurity. 

Hold the position for a second or two and then set your foot back down on the floor. 

What to Do if One SI Hurts

You will likely find that this move feels okay on one side but painful on the other. Again, the rule of thumb here is to move only within pain free limits. If you have to skip one of the legs, that's fine.

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Pull Both Knees to Your Chest

Knees to chest may help stretch your low back.
Knees to chest may help stretch your low back.

If you're back is up for it, which in part may be a matter of strong ab muscles, try the double knees to chest exercise. 

Safety Comes First

Because you're doing this in the hopes of alleviating sacroiliac joint pain, the safest way to get into double knees to chest position is by bringing one leg up at a time.

And bringing one leg down at a time is perhaps even more important for your safety. Unless your abs are very strong, excessive pulling on the joint may make your SI problem worse. 

Double Knee to Chest Stretch Instructions

In the supine position again, with bend your knees and feet flat on the floor, bring one knee up towards the front of your trunk. (This is the same exercise as you did above.) Keeping that knee there, gently perform the same move with the other leg. Grasp both legs just under the knees and pull them towards you. Hold for a second or two, and then lower the legs, one at a time.

Be sure to let pain be your guide. If any part of this moves hurts your SI joint, stop.

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Reset Your SI Joint

Stretch hip abductors by strengthening hip adductors.
Stretch hip abductors by strengthening hip adductors.

An often used folk remedy for a misaligned (and painful) SI joint is to reset it by igniting the adductor, aka inner thigh, muscle groups. Some people report getting short term relief from this move. 

While in the supine position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, place a soft ball or rolled up pair of socks between your knees. Very gently squeeze for a count of 5 and then slowly release. Do about 3-5 of these, but let your pain be your guide. In other words, stop if it hurts.

One Sided Hip Adduction Move for a Jammed SI Joint

Many yoga teachers teach us that a hypermobile SI joint is jammed on one side. 

To that end, they suggest opening the area up with with adduction just of that hip. Adduction simply means bringing the thigh closer to the mid-line of your body. You can try that in a standing position by crossing the leg of the painful side in front of your body.

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Strategic Stretching to Help Reset the SI Joint

Hip abductor and rotator stretch.
Hip abductor and rotator stretch.

A strategy that's related to adduction discussed above is to stretch your outer hip muscles. 

In the adduction strategy, you're engaging, or contracting, the inner thigh muscles.

Stretching the outer hip muscles, which are the opposing muscles to the inner thighs, may indirectly have the same effect as adduction, albeit in a less intense way. Plus, it can help release chronic tension that may be at least partially responsible for routine SI joint misalignment. 

As with any one legged move with SI joint issues, this exercise may be more painful on one side than on the other. Always move in a pain free zone only.

How to Stretch Your Outer Hip Muscles for SI Joint Pain Relief

In the supine position, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, place the ankle of one foot on the knee of the other. Wrap your hands under the supporting knee. Using your abs, gently lift the supporting knee off the floor, going only as high as you can without pain at the SI joint. 

That said, a little stretch type pain at your outer thigh can be a good thing. 

Stay up for just a short time and set the leg down again.

Do up to 5 of these and then rest. Repeat on the other side.

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Twist Your Spine

A woman in the supine position twists her spine by bringing her knees to one side.
Supine spinal twist. cirkoglu

If your pain levels permit, you can move from the supine hooklying position into a gentle spinal twist. Here's how:

Take both knees a little ways to one side — generally this is away from the painful side — and test to see if you can tolerate it. Stay only for a few seconds and bring your legs back up. 

Move gently and thoughtfully; repeat only to tolerance.

Repeat on the other side.

You might consider arranging some pillows or blankets in the area where your knees will go when you twist. This may offer up a bit more support, which, in turn, may help you relax excess muscle tension

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Advanced Moves for Resetting Your SI Joint

A woman stretches her quadriceps muscles while lying on her side.
Sidelying Quadriceps Stretch. AmeliaFox

Taking the tension out of your quadriceps muscles may help alleviate some of your SI pain. 

In the image above, the model is demonstrating the easiest type of quadriceps stretch, where you lie on one side and grasp your foot, ankle or even your shin behind you, then gently pull it toward you. If you can't reach, consider using a strap or belt around your foot to extend the reach space.

This position is not for everyone. If you are not used to exercise and you have SI joint pain, you may want to forego the side lying quad stretch as the position, more so than the stretch itself, may stress the joint.

The side lying stretch is for beginners. If you're advanced you may want to try other quadriceps stretches.

Are you a visual person with an SI joint problem? Keep up with sacroiliac joint content on Pinterest.

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