Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction is extremely common, especially in women.
One technique that can help reduce pain and get you back to life is the muscle energy technique for SI joint dysfunction.
This post describes how to use the muscle energy technique to reduce pain and improve function.
*Please note, I see this technique as a short-term solution for when your SI joint gets out of place. Long-term, you should be working to create balance in the muscles surrounding the pelvis so that your SI joint is less likely to end up out of place. These longer-term solutions are what I teach in the Fix Your Hips program.
ANATOMY OF THE SI JOINT
You have 2 SI joints in your pelvis.
The sacroiliac joint occurs where the spine enters the pelvis.
Specifically, the SI joint connects the sacrum (the bony triangle at the base of the spine) to the iliac bone of the pelvis.
You have one on either side of the spine.
This joint is held in place by many ligaments and muscles.
In normal functioning, the sacroiliac joint has very little movement (e.g. 2-4mm in any direction).
However, pregnancy, weight changes, and overuse (like with intense yoga practice) increase mobility in the joint by weakening ligaments and creating muscular imbalances.
In fact, one study showed that 26% of postpartum women experienced SI Joint pain.
TYPICAL CAUSE OF SI JOINT PAIN
Si Joint pain and dysfunction can be caused by abnormal motion in the SI joint (too mobile), OR abnormal motion that causes the pelvis to become stuck in a rotated position.
When the SI joint becomes stuck, usually one side of the pelvis gets stuck in a slightly forward (anterior) position, and that SI joint is stuck in a slightly elevated position. The other side of the pelvis will be stuck in a slightly backward (posterior) position with the SI joint stuck down.
This limits the mobility of the pelvis, overall, and can cause pain, discomfort, and muscular compensations.
This video shows this process on a model of a pelvis.
HOW THE MUSCLE ENERGY TECHNIQUE FOR SI JOINTS WORKS
The main idea behind the muscle energy technique for the SI joint is that you will be using key muscles to rotate your pelvis back into position.
When the pelvis shifts back into place, the SI joint becomes unlocked, and the natural movement in the SI joint can happen again.
As mentioned before, one side of the pelvis is stuck in an anterior (forward) position and one side is stuck in a posterior position (backward).
You will engage the muscles behind the leg to pull the anterior side backward. And you will engage the muscles of the hip flexor to draw the posterior side forward.
*If your pelvis is hypermobile, either due to genetics, pregnancy, etc. it is very likely that the SI joint will get stuck again in the future. This is why it is important to create overall stability for the pelvis through strength training and muscular releases so that you limit the movement of the SI joint.
HOW TO PERFORM THE MUSCLE ENERGY TECHNIQUE FOR SI JOINT
This video shows how to do the muscle energy technique for the SI joints. The instructions are also written below the video.
You will need a block and a partner (or a small exercise band)
1. Determine which leg is acting “longer” by sitting on the floor and seeing which ankle bone is more forward, or by comparing your ASIS bone heights (This is also described in the video).
2. Lie on back, with knees bent and feet on wall with knees at a 90 degree angle.
3. Press the “longer” leg’s foot into the wall, while you press the thigh of the opposite leg into the hands. Press both legs for 5 seconds, then rest.
4. Repeat 2 more times.
5. Place the yoga block in between the thighs and squeeze for 3-5 seconds. This activates the adductors.
6. Do this 3 times.
7. Then use a band around your legs, or ask a partner to press inward on the outside of your leg. Press your legs outward into the band or hands for 3-5 seconds, 3 times.
A few caveats:
If you find that this technique increases your pain, please do not use it.
I do not recommend using this technique on an ongoing basis. Ideally, you will use this technique to realign your pelvis and get out of acute pain. Then, you will work to create stability for your pelvis so that you have fewer instances of your pelvis becoming stuck.
You can create long-term stability for the pelvis by strengthening and balancing the muscles surrounding the pelvis, like we do in the Fix Your Hips program.
If you are dealing with SI joint issues regularly, you might be interested in our Happy Hips masterclass. In it, we cover why hip issues like SI joint dysfunction are so common, and what can be done to correct them. Click here, or below, to learn more.