One in every seven people will suffer from sacroiliac joint syndrome at some point in their life. Runners are particularly affected. But what is a sacroiliac joint blockade exactly? What are the symptoms, and, most importantly, how can you treat this problem effectively, so that your running is as painfree as possible? Health coach and personal trainer Kathrin Messer (Health Management MOA) answers these questions and provides us with some preventative and rehabilitative exercises.
What is the sacroiliac joint exactly?
The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) is an articulated joint (amphiarthrosis) with an extremely limited range of motion. It is formed of the sacrum and the two adjacent right and left ilium wings. It basically connects the upper and lower body and transfers power from the spine to the pelvis. As such, the SIJ is key to stabilising the pelvis and thus performs a crucial role in determining overall body posture. Muscular stabilisation is primarily ensured by the internal piriformis muscle and the external gluteus maximus muscle.
What are the symptoms of an SIJ blockade?
It is not unusual for symptoms to emerge gradually and to be exacerbated by intensive running training. It usually begins with a slight pulling or pricking sensation in the region of the sacrum and can spread to the whole lower back and the pelvic region. As the symptoms are very vague, it is easy to mistake an SIJ blockade for a slipped disk or muscular stiffness in the area of the lumbar spine.
CAUTION: In order to analyse symptoms accurately and identify the cause of pain correctly, you should always consult a doctor in order to obtain a professionally sound diagnosis and rule out any damage to the spine (slipped disc, cartilage damage, etc.).
What causes SIJ syndrome?
The causes of this problem are as variable as its symptoms. As such, the following are just a few of the possible reasons why it occurs. The cause may be due to pathological long-term pressure on the SIJ. Pain may also be caused by a severe trauma (e.g. a fall, stepping out into an empty space, heavy lifting, etc.). Orthopaedic misalignments such as differences in leg lengths or tension may also lead to an SIJ blockade. Possible pelvic misalignment and asymmetrical pressure on the SIJ can lead to the ‘jamming’ of the bony elements. Last but not least, stress, chronic illness or mental tension may cause SIJ syndrome.
4 exercises for avoiding or eliminating an SIJ blockade:
Following a diagnosis from a doctor, it is best to treat an SIJ blockade with the help of a physiotherapist. However, you can also do certain exercises to prevent SIJ syndrome or promote recovery as quickly as possible. It is important to hone the mobility of the spine and the affected muscles in a targeted way.
Exercise 1 – Prevention with forward bends: Bending forward from a sitting position will help to stretch and open up all of your back muscles (‘superficial backline’). Simply sit on a yoga mat, stretch out both of your arms and legs, and slowly bend forward. Gently rest your chin on your chest and try to touch your toes with your fingers. You should feel a slight tugging in your calf and lower thighs, and in your back muscles. Hold this position for 15–30 seconds and then repeat the exercise two or three times.
Exercise 2 – Prevention with a hurdler’s stretch: Sit cross-legged on a yoga mat, with your back as straight as possible. Push either your right or left leg backwards and then straighten it so that it forms a right angle. Stretch your other leg out in front so that it also forms a right angle. Now align your slightly twisted upper body so that it forms a line with the yoga mat. Now slowly bend forward and try to push your two shoulderblades together. You should feel a slight pulling sensation in your outer hip joint and around your adductor muscles. Hold this position for 15–30 seconds and then repeat the exercise two or three times.
Exercise 3 – Recovery with a V-pose Place a yoga mat lengthwise against a wall and position yourself on it so that your bottom is as close to the wall as possible and you can stretch your legs upwards, parallel to one another. Now open them so that they form a V and then slide or push one side of your pelvis up, switching from side to side. To stop yourself sliding away from the wall, you can keep yourself in place by gently pressing the palms of your hands against the floor. Repeat this exercise 15–30 times, and do the whole thing two to three times in total.
Exercise 3 – Recovery with SIJ mobilisation For this exercise, you need two tennis balls or, even better, two fascia balls. Lie flat on a yoga mat and gently lift your pelvis. Then push the two balls left and right beneath your sacrum. Ideally, find the right spots beforehand with your fingers. Now lay your head down, let your hands lie to your sides, and relax. You can now roll your pelvis this way and that by putting gentle pressure on the two balls for 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat this process two to three times.