What Exercises Make SI Joints Worse?
If your lower back hurts, your sacroiliac joints may be the problem. Pain in these joints that lie on either side of the lower back above the sacrum can result from an infection, a tumor, trauma, or activities that require twisting, bending, standing, sitting or lifting. A 2005 study of reported causes of SI joint pain found that 44 percent of the patients had sustained trauma, such as falls, motor vehicle accidents or childbirth; 21 percent had pain from repeated stress on the joints; and 35 percent had no known cause, according to Dr. Stephen P. Cohen in an article published in "Anesthesia and Analgesia."
The sacroiliac joints are located on either side of your lower back at the point near the top of your buttocks where your sacrum attaches to your pelvis or hips. Designed for only a small degree of movement, the SI joints can be damaged if they become immobile or, conversely, if they move too much. People who gain weight, whose legs are of unequal lengths due to polio or who have curvature of the spine are especially prone to developing SI joint dysfunction. Women are also vulnerable to developing SI joint pain because they have wider pelvises than men and the ligaments loosen during pregnancy.
Rotating your pelvis results in stress on the ligaments that hold the joints together. This rotation, called torsion, occurs in ballet as well as in golf and racket sports such as tennis. Other activities such as driving long distances or stretching incorrectly can also injure the SI joints. The resulting pain may be sudden and sharp or dull and aching. It may occur in one or both sides and may be felt in the buttocks, groin, abdomen, feet or legs. Inflammation and fluid build-up in the affected area can increase the pain and, over time, damage the joints.
Many types of activities can increase the pain of SI joint dysfunction. Your body will benefit from mild activities, such as walking, to prevent the pelvis from becoming completely immobile, but you should avoid strenuous exercise, such as running. Climbing stairs and sitting for long periods of time without getting up will cause pain, especially if you sit with your legs crossed since that position moves the pelvis out of alignment. Avoid exercises that require you to stand on one leg, twist, carry a heavy object on one side of the body or assume extreme postures as they will increase the level of your pain.
Exercise programs for sacroiliac joint pain can help to relieve pain and prevent future injury. Dr. Mary Schatz, in her book, "Back Care Basics: A Doctor's Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief," recommends gentle yoga stretches such as Supine Cobbler's Pose to relax the muscles in the buttocks, hamstrings and lower back. She also recommends strengthening exercises for the muscles that support the pelvis and spine. Avoid poses that require you to stand on one leg or twist your body to prevent further pain.