“Help! My SI joint is outta whack!”
I hear this from clients all the time and as a former card carrying member of the whacked out SI joint club, I get how miserable SI joint stuff can be.
(Side note, “whacked out” SI joint doesn’t actually mean anything other than sometimes your SI joint feels weird – your SI joint doesn’t actually go “out”).
It seems like half the people I meet have discomfort in this area, which begs the question, why is SI joint stuff so prevalent?
I’ll start by saying that this is a complicated topic that doesn’t have a cookie cutter answer.
However, there are some tendencies that can contribute to cranky SI joints, which I’ll do my best to break down in this post 😉
First, if you’re not familiar with the SI joint, it’s the area between you sacrum (that triangle bone between your butt cheeks) and your ilium (those big pelvic bones).
And since you have one sacrum + a right and left illum, you have two SI joints.
Your SI joints are meant to have some movement. The issue is that because there’s a lot of “stuff” (muscles…ligaments…ect) around that area, the Si jointcan get pulled or held in a weird positions that sends a signal to your brain that translates as “Ow! I’m unhappy! Pay attention to meeeeeee!”
(Did I mention that I imagine my SI joint to be a whiny kid trapped in a car on a roadtrip who needs to pee?)
Anyways, this is a massive oversimplification, but here are three reasons why your joint might be cranky…
1. Pelvic instability + lack of body awareness (aka proprioception)
You have these muscles called “stabilizers” which = the smaller, deeper muscles that help track your joints in space and control your movements.
There’s a bunch of them located around the pelvis and odds are if you don’t use your body in full ranges of motion (aka you spend a lot of time sitting or standing in one position), your pelvic stabilizers are sipping coconuts on the beach rather than working, because…they haven’t been called into work and why bother going in when you can party? 😉
When your stabilizers go MIA, your nervous system senses that there is weakness + instability around the joint and it sends signals of stiffness or pain as a way to inform you that something is up and you might want to pay attention.
Along the same lines, your body relies on proprioception or body awareness to monitor where your joints are in space. When you adopt habitual postures, you lose proprioception in the areas that don’t get moved much.
A common area that doesn’t get moved during long bouts of sitting or standing? All the joints around your booty…including your hips and yep…you guessed it…your SI joint.
When your nervous system realizes it can’t sense where your joints are it sends that same pesky signal I referenced above to tell you to pay attention to that area. Enter stiffness and discomfort.
2. Relative strength imbalances around the pelvis or lower body
There are more than stabilizers around your pelvis. There’s a bunch of big muscles that move you through space too – quads, glutes, and the inner thighs to name a few!
The human body isn’t meant to be symmetrical, so it’s 100% normal to have some strength imbalances between the two sides.
However, if you become too specialized and end up with one really strong buttcheck + a leg that’s good at balancing and one really strong hip flexor on the other side + a leg that’s super awesome at launching you through space, then you can end up with one SI joint that is constantly “held,” while the other SIjoint moves too much.
This again prompts your nervous system to signal to that area, which translates to a literal pain in the booty.
3. A habitual movement tendency or pattern
I’ve alluded to this, but the body isn’t really a fan of habitual movement or long bouts of inactivity.
When you sit or stand in one position for too long, or only perform repetitive motions, you can become too specialized, or really good at only moving a limited number of ways.
When you become too specialized, you get compensation. This is mostly unconscious, but it might mean you always place more weight on your left leg when standing, or you instinctively only rotate to the right.
While none of this is bad or dangerous, it does mean that some muscles + movements will get used a lot and others not as much.
Over time can cause discomfort and stress around one or both SI joints.
I’ll also add that while the SI joint might feel ouchy, sometimes it’s not where the problem is stemming from.
For example, if could be that you have an old shoulder injury, which resulted in some residual stiffness through your left ribs. This could cause you to stand more heavily on your left leg, which creates feelings of pressure and discomfort around the left SI joint….or the right one.
This is to say that like a Facebook status during a break-up, it’s complicated!
You might be thinking, “Ummm, thanks for all that random info about why my nervous system is an A-hole, but my SI joint still feels like crap, so what am I supposed to do about that?!” #eyeroll
Here’s the good news.
Assuming you haven’t experienced a traumatic injury (e.g. falling down a mountain, which in that case, please stop reading this and see your doctor), there’s a high probability that structurally your SI joint is fine.
And as much as you might think that your nervous system is a jerk for sending you all those pesky pain signals, it’s really just doing its job of letting you know you should pay attention to that area.
In practical terms, paying attention = taking some time to work on your strength, stability, and mobility/flexibility around your hips and back.
Because, when you improve strength + body awareness, your nervous system senses greater security and stops sounding so many alarms.
If you’re not sure how to go about that, I’ve conveniently designed an entire program to specifically address all of those things 😉
Hips Don’t Lie is an at-home program to take your hips + all the stuff around yo hurts from hurty to happy, by improving strength, mobility, and balance.
Or if you want to just feel good in general and reduce your risk of having stiff, achey hips, this program is for you too 😉
It’s not a life event and takes 25 minutes a day 2-3 times a week and you can start it any time you want – tomorrow or a year from now.
Interested? You can get all the details + sign up here.
As a final note, I want to be upfront that I can’t promise you that Hips Don’t Lie will solve your SI issue, because the program is comprised of exercises, not magic, and I don’t know your unique history.
(And if you have ongoing, severe pain, I’d suggest you consult a medical professional before starting an exercise program).
However, no one was ever worse off for improving their mobility + strength and if you buy the program and then realize “Whoopsies, this isn’t for me” I have a 30 day money back guarantee.
All you gotta do is email me and I’ll refund you. No stress!