If you have struggled with sacroiliac joint, or SI joint, dysfunction, you know the pain and frustration that it can create. The thing to know, if this is something you experience, is that your pain is typically caused by an imbalance of mobility and stability in the SI joint. When this happens, your body naturally produces scar tissue to create more stability. While this is effective in the short term, the body can’t typically go on functioning this way without further imbalances and pain occurring.

SI joint dysfunction is common among athletes, and one that I’ve personally struggled with for a number of years. However, through massage therapy and yoga, I was able to find relief for my SI joint pain, and I hope you can, too!

Creating a Healing Space

My initial symptoms started with a popping sound near my lower back on my right hip. Actually, it was more of a clunk. Whenever I would stand up and take a few steps, I would feel a huge shift in my hips and hear a pop, but I felt no pain. However, many of my activities, such as running, cycling and even sitting, were negatively affected over the next few months. Gradually I started experiencing more and more pain that progressed into sharp pain, felt in my SI joint. It was so intense it would stop me in my tracks. Instead of a pop, my muscles would freeze up, causing pain in my hip and down the outside of my thigh.

Searching for a relief from this pain, I started going to yoga classes regularly, about three times a week, hoping to create more movement in my hips and low back. After about a month of regular practice, I noticed a huge improvement. The sharp pains had stopped, and while the popping had returned, I considered this to be a big improvement. Yoga was an awesome tool that gave me back the mobility that I was lacking in the joint, bringing me one step closer to long-term healing.

Working it Out and Stabilizing the Hips

Around this time, I was starting my training as a massage therapist, and I was receiving massage regularly from my class mates (one of the perks of becoming a massage therapist!) Having a massage therapist regularly work on my entire hip structure about once a week was making a massive difference. My hip was moving easier, and I was feeling less pain.

My massage treatments were focused on a few key muscles: Gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, piriformis and the hip adductors. While yoga and massage were making a difference in the pain felt in my low back, I knew it would be important to strengthen my lower back muscles, abdominals, and glutes for more long lasting relief and stability in the joints. Some of the more effective activities I’ve done for this have been swimming, hiking, lunges, and squats. This has made all the difference in restoring the strength in the muscles surrounding the SI joints.

Strengthening my hips has helped to stabilize the joints, so I feel less popping and pain.  This experience turned out to be a continuous learning process for me, and at times I wanted to find the proverbial magic bullet that would fix all of my symptoms. But the reality is that our bodies carry around the history of us: our experiences, injuries, strengths and weaknesses. As with any injury, it’s the body that does the healing. When we receive body work, through treatments like massage therapy or acupuncture that really focus on holistic and genuine healing, we are really facilitating long-term health and wellness.

I want to recommend to you, if you’ve been struggling with this injury, to talk with a massage therapist who can guide you through repairing any imbalances in your body and creating a life of well-being and happiness. I believe we all have the ability to find empowerment through the struggle of pain when we advocate for our health and wellbeing.