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What Does SI Joint Pain Feel Like? The Ultimate Guide to Recognizing & Treating

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Introduction

Pain in the lower back and hip are often a mystery. This occurrence can disrupt life and lessen the enjoyment of day-to-day activities. When plagued with pain in these areas, sufferers should look to professionals for guidance while asking if it could be SI joint pain. In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about SI joint pain, including what it is, causes, treatment, prevention, and more.

What is SI Joint Pain? What is SI Joint Pain Symptoms?

What does SI joint pain feel like? It can be hard to tell the difference between SI joint pain and other similar ailments. Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain is caused by damage to the joint between the hips and the spine. Those suffering from SI joint pain typically feel it in their buttocks, hips, legs, lower back, or a combination of these areas.

SI joint pain is not uncommon. It is suspected to be the cause of fifteen to thirty percent of all cases of lower back pain! The sacroiliac joint has a limited range of motion and absorbs shock in the body – so injury to this area can cause pain with movement during sitting and while laying down.

What Causes SI Joint Pain?

The reasons behind SI joint pain vary case-to-case, but the reason behind it is always the joint's mobility. When it moves too much, the pelvis can become unstable – leading to pain. The same occurs when the joint becomes fixed or tense and moves too little.

Certain health conditions and events can lead to inflammation of the sacroiliac joint and SI joint pain. A few of these include:

  • Infections
  • Rheumatoid conditions
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Recent falls
  • Work injuries
  • Car accidents
  • Hip or spine surgeries
  • Poor posture
  • Inflammation
  • Pelvic instability
  • Intensive physical activity, like habitual running

Diagnosing SI Joint Pain

Getting a diagnosis for SI joint pain can be a complex process. Since there is no diagnostic test, doctors must run a series of diagnostic tests to rule out other conditions like herniated discs and arthritis. The final diagnosis hinges upon physical examinations or even pain-blocking injections in the area of the joint.

It is beneficial for medical professionals to review medical history and habits when diagnosing this type of joint injury. This can uncover likely causes of the pain and damage. Tests involving physical movement may also play a part in obtaining a diagnosis. These may be:

  • Sacral Thrust Tests: The patient lies face down on a table as pressure is applied to their hips. A positive test result occurs when this produces pain. A positive sacral thrust test can be a critical indicator that pain is related to the SI joint.
  • Distraction Tests: During a distraction test, pressure is applied to the front hips as the subject lies on a table. Like a sacral thrust test, pain creates a positive result and potentially indicates SI joint pain.
  • FABER Tests: The patient lies down on their back with one leg straight and the other leg bent with the foot to the knee of the straight leg (forming a shape similar to a 4). The administrator of the test then gently moves the bent knee in varying directions. This test comes back as "positive" and may indicate SI joint pain if the movements produce pain or if the range of motion is too limited for them to occur.
  • Palpitation Tests: This test consists of applying deep pressure with the thumbs to the entire SI joint on each side. Tenderness with the application of pressure suggests that an SI joint is the cause of pain.

How to Fix SI Joint Pain

SI joint pain treatment can be complex, and many factors involved, but some SI joint pain relief can be found through a combination of proper habits. Keep reading to find out more about SI joint pain treatment at home, physical therapy for SI joint pain, heat for SI joint pain, ibuprofen for SI joint pain, and even how to sit with SI joint pain.

SI Joint Pain Exercises and Stretches

Stretches and exercises are an easy way to strengthen muscles for long-term recovery and prevent further damage. There are various recommended SI joint pain exercises and stretches for SI joint pain relief.

Training the Hip Abductors

Strengthening the muscles of the hips can minimize the stress passed to the SI joint. The hip abductors can be exercised using specialized machines at a local gym or home. No matter where the training is done, it should always begin with low weights and resistance then slowly progress.

To train hip abductors without workout machines, lie on your back with a resistance band around your knees, then bend them a bit. Push both knees outward, away from each other, while maintaining an arch of your back. Hold your knees apart for five seconds and complete these in rounds of ten repetitions.

Training the Hip Adductors

Much like the hip abductors, hip adductors may be strengthened on a machine or ground to reduce strain to the SI joint. To work for this muscle group, lie on the floor and place a dodgeball-sized exercise ball between the knees. Maintaining the proper arch of the back, squeeze the ball with the knees for five seconds at a time, completing ten repetitions per round.

Bridges

This low-impact exercise strengthens the back, core, and hips – allowing them to absorb more stress and protect the SI joint. A bridge is simple. Just lie on the ground with bent knees and your palms flat on the floor. Lift the hips off the floor eight to ten times for five seconds each.

Triangle Pose

Yoga is excellent for stretching and strengthening the body, including the muscles, which counteract joint pain. This video illustrates quickly how to enter the triangle pose correctly.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

This exercise is as simple as it sounds. To complete a knee-to-chest stretch, lie flat on your back with your legs straight, bend one knee and pull it to the chest. Slowly bring the leg back down to the floor and repeat on the other side.

Physical Therapy for SI Joint Pain

Can physical therapy help SI joint pain? Absolutely! Trained therapists can help to lessen even the most severe SI joint pain and are especially crucial in cases of chronic SI joint pain.

Physical therapists will teach stretches and exercises and use massage and heat or cold to promote joint health. Each injury and each joint is different, and these specialists provide custom treatment on a case-to-case basis.

Swimming pool

Swimming for SI Joint Pain

Swimming is a controversial topic for what can cause SI joint pain and fix SI joint pain. While water aerobics and other low-impact sports are fabulous SI joint pain treatments, traditional swimming strokes apply a lot of repetitive force to the lower back. Force worsens strain, so faster competitive swimming styles are SI joint pain exercises to avoid.

Yoga triangle pose

Yoga as SI Joint Pain Treatment

Yoga stretches are great for relieving this type of pain and releasing some strain on the sacroiliac joint. Look for gentle poses like triangle pose and locust pose. Avoid any pose that requires weight to be applied to the back. Also, any pose that requires a lot of support from the lower back or the hips muscles.

Hot and cold therapy for SI joint pain

Heat or Cold for SI Joint Pain Relief

Hot and cold therapy can be effective for treating the joint responsible for causing SI joint pain. Physical therapists often integrate this into their treatment plans. Ice and cold compresses are used in fifteen to twenty-minute increments to reduce inflammation, while heat reduces tension and muscle spasms.

SI Joint Pain Chiropractor

SI Joint Pain Chiropractors

Chiropractic care can offer relief to sufferers of SI joint pain. SI joint pain chiropractors will perform a “Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction Chiropractic adjustment." Through movements and adjustments of the hips and back, chiropractors offer SI joint pain relief and improved mobility in some cases!

Massage for SI Joint Pain

Massage for SI Joint Pain

Is there a massage for SI joint pain? There are certainly some massage techniques that help balance the muscles around the joint, which means increased mobility and lessened pain. If you are looking for an alternative treatment for SI joint pain, massage has proven results and may be an avenue worth exploring.

Acupuncture for joint pain

Acupuncture for SI Joint Pain

Acupuncture is a minimally invasive treatment for many ailments that involves the insertion of tiny needles into a specific point on the body. This is believed to activate these points and stimulate the nervous system to release certain chemicals that our body uses in healing. Many sufferers of SI joint pain find success with this method of treatment, and some even go back to their regular physical activities in 6-8 months.

Pilates for SI joint pain

Pilates for SI Joint Pain

Pilates consists of exercises that target and strengthen specific areas of the body. Trained instructors can target Pilates to SI joint pain and other ailments! In this case, they aim to align the pelvis by stretching and strengthening its support muscles.

TENS unit for SI pain

TENS Machines for SI Joint Pain

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units and TENS therapy use electrical stimulation to block pain signals. This method answers the question of how to relieve SI joint pain without medication. It may also be a good option for treating chronic SI joint pain in conjunction with other methods.

SI joint pain relief at home can be achieved through TENS if one masters the art of tens unit electrode placement for SI joint pain. Knowing where to place tens pads for SI joint pain is a challenge, but experts recommend placing four pads in a square on the lower back, at least one inch away from each other in all directions.

The Ultimate Guide to TENS Units

Learn More About TENS Units

Our guide to TENS unit covers everything you need to know, including:

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Medications

Treating SI Joint Pain with Medication

Most doctors recommend over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen in conjunction with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen for SI joint pain. When this does not provide sufficient relief, additional medications may be prescribed. These may be muscle relaxers or narcotic painkillers.

Prevention of SI Joint Pain

There are ways that one can prevent the onset or worsening of SI joint hip pain, SI joint lower back pain, SI joint pain during pregnancy, and other similar ailments. It is as simple as understanding what causes SI joint pain. Some of the most critical areas to explore are SI joint pain exercises to avoid, how to sit with SI joint pain, and how to sleep with SI joint pain.

SI Joint Pain Exercises to Avoid

Any move that results in high impact or destabilizes the pelvis should be flagged as a SI joint pain exercise to avoid! The most common high-impact activities are running, jumping, weightlifting, and ballistic movements of all kinds. To keep the pelvis stable, stay away from any step-up or lunge and anything that requires a lot of twists or bends.

Avoid SI Joint Pain when Sitting

A seemingly harmless activity is one of the most dangerous. Suffers and people who wish to avoid should be sure to understand how to sit with SI joint pain.

Posture Checklist

To minimize SI joint pain while sitting, the hips should always be neutral. To prevent strain, keep the lower back supported and relaxed as much as possible. The addition of a cushion or pillow is an excellent option for additional lumbar support.

For the best results, try to keep your weight distributed evenly and your knees apart. Your chest should stay forward, and your shoulder blades relaxed. Another great option is to sit with your ankles crossed and feet beneath you, known as the tailor's position or crisscross-applesauce.

chair

The Best Chair for SI Joint Pain

Chairs can aggravate the joints of the back and hips, especially for individuals who must sit for long periods. The best chair for your office or home needs to have sufficient lower back support first and foremost. It is also good to switch it up as much as possible.

There are alternatives to traditional chairs, many of which have been explicitly designed to combat back pain! Ball chairs require balance and strengthen the core, but these benefits can be replicated by simply swapping your chair for an exercise ball. Kneeling chairs are another great option that allows the strain to be distributed across the body instead of concentrated in the back and hips.

Sleeping with SI Joint Pain

Are you experiencing SI joint pain while sleeping? It can be hard to ignore - but there are a few tips and tricks on how to sleep with severe SI joint pain. Try these out and finally get the rest you deserve.

The Best Mattress for SI Joint Pain

The trick to a good mattress when you're sleeping with SI joint pain is, as always – support. You want a bed that will properly align the spine and relieves the days’ worth of pressure in the lower back. Look for mattresses that offer zone support, and always consult with your doctor or chiropractor before making the final decision.

Pillows to Prevent Pain

A good night’s sleep doesn’t come from a mattress alone - here’s what you need in a pillow if you want SI joint pain relief. A contoured cervical pillow supports spinal alignment and prevents the lower back from over-compensating for your neck. Don't forget about your hips, which will benefit significantly from a knee pillow!

SI Joint Pain Sleeping Positions

If you are a stomach sleeper, you have to change that. Stomach sleepers hyperextend their spines for long periods while harshly turning their necks. And the key to sleeping with SI joint pain is, of course, alignment! While sleeping on your back, ensure neck support and place a pillow under your knees. If you sleep on your side, it is crucial to line up your head with your spine and separate your knees with a pillow.

Frequently Asked SI Joint Pain Questions

Can SI Joint Pain Cause Hip Pain?

Yes! This is one of the most common symptoms of SI joint injury, damage, or inflammation. However, this can also indicate many other problems, so always consult your doctor about abnormal pain.

Might I Experience SI Joint Pain When Bending Over?

It is possible that you could experience SI joint pain when bending over. This is often pain in the lower back, which is utilized in bending.

Is Walking Good for SI Joint Pain?

Not always. Pain in this joint can be worsened by the stresses of movement, including walking. When you do go walking, bring out your most supportive low-heeled shoes and take it slow. Do not attempt to walk long distances or for long periods if you are experiencing pain.

Should I be Worried if I Feel More Pain after SI Joint Injections?

Every case and every joint vary, so there is no correct answer to this question. If you are experiencing pain that you believe may be abnormal, consult with your doctor immediately to avoid complications.

SI joint pain is an ailment that can seem overwhelming, but there are many treatment and prevention options. Doctors are crucial players in determining the best course of action for each patient. Use these tips with the approval of your healthcare provider to find some SI joint pain relief!

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About the Author

Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.