Exercises for sacroiliac joint pain

Exercises for sacroiliac joint pain are mandatory for low back pain sufferers; do them every morning before getting out of bed.

This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 21st June, 2019.

A Swiss chiropractor, Dr Fred Illi, was the first to prove conclusively that the sacro-iliac joint was a movable joint. Prior to that medical anatomists were convinced that chiropractors were quite wrong in claiming that the SIJ could cause pain, needed chiropractic adjustments and exercises.

He took fresh cadavers and with a series of levers and contraptions was able to measure the movement in the joints.

The pelvis consists of a ring of three bones, two ilia (no doubt why Fred Illi had such a passion for the pelvis!) and a sacrum wedged between them. Hence the Sacro-iliac joint, or SIJ for short.

Latin confusion: One ILIUM (noun), plural two ILIA. Adjective ILIAC.

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Stones in my Clog has several stories and sacroiliac conditions.

Diagram of the pelvis showing the sacro-iliac joint.

By placing one thumb on the ilium, and the other on the sacrum, and then having you raise your knee, your Chiropractor can feel the movement in the joint. It's really as clear as daylight. Until one or both become fixated - then you can feel the absence of normal movement. Pain.

Photograph of the pelvis and lower spinal skeleton showing why sacroiliac exercises are important.

Why? Because the cartilage in the joint has no blood supply of its own. It's totally dependent on the fluid in the joint for its nutrition, and removal of waste products. Fixation leads to stagnation, the fluid is not replenished, oxygen and nutrients are rapidly in short supply... PAIN. And Immobilisation Arthritis, the most common cause of osteoarthritis. And hence the need for sacroiliac exercises.


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Before giving exercises for sacroiliac joint pain, in chiropractic we believe that a thorough examination is vital; that would include testing for movement in the SIJ.

Motion palpation yields important information before the need for sacroiliac joint exercises.
Motion palpation of the sacroiliac joint.

Exercises for sacroiliac joint pain

These very simple three exercises for sacroiliac joint pain, and the lumbar spine, should be done EVERY morning before arising. I do them myself; they take only 40 seconds; it's time well spent, and will pay a handsome dividend. I NEVER miss! NEVER.

You shouldn't either if you have a short leg, chronic SIJ subluxations and pain, or sacroiliac disease like ankylosing spondylitis. 


People carrying the HLA B27 gene (8% of white Americans, 4% of blacks) have a tendency to get an inflammatory sacroiliac disease called ANKYLOSING SPONDYLITIS, or Bamboo spine.

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis has a predeliction for the SIJ and can cause Sacroiliac joint inflammation ...

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X-ray of the SI joint showing the hallmarks of ankylosing spondylitis.

No one is sure why some people carrying the gene get the disease and others don't. It's probably related to life style, diet, homocysteine cardiovascular metabolism and many other factors. Think healthy choice foods; consider exercises for sacroiliac joint pain, especially if you know you or someone in your family is a carrier.

The presence of that HLA-B27 gene can be very confusing. Patients needing routine chiropractic sacroiliac joint treatment are often told they have ankylosing spondylitis when there are no other signs of the disease.

To make a diagnosis of AS, the HLA-B27 gene must be present AND signs of ankylosis in the sacroiliac joint.

Just because you have sacroiliac joint pain and are carrying that nasty gene, don't necessarily be fobbed off with statements like you have untreatable arthritis and must learn to live with the pain.

In fact even patients with proven early stage AS in the SIJ respond well to chiropractic treatment and exercises for sacroiliac joint pain.

Leg length inequality

Radiologists have shown conclusively that a short leg causes more arthritis in the hip and knee, and curvatures of the spine. And in our experience more sacroiliac joint pain; hence the need for SIJ exercises. A difference in leg length is not uncommon.

Hilton chiropractic coalface

This week my colleague, Dr Jane Ackerman, has had a patient who has returned after a longer absence than usual for his maintenance care. He has had no pain for nearly a year, and neglected to come for his usual adjustment, every few months.

Over the weekend, he connected a heavy trailer to his car, and bingo, acute SIJ pain, radiating to the lower leg, despite having done his exercises for sacroiliac joint pain faithfully; me.

Happily after only one sacroiliac joint treatment I am at least fifty percent better with, most important, minimal pain in the leg.

Fifty percent less pain is the dangerous time, and I of all people know it. This is not a one-treatment-miracle. I too have to go the discipline of being careful, doing my exercises faithfully, sitting less at this computer! and rescheduling for the next treatment. Tomorrow.

Leg pain during pregnancy

She in turn is seven months pregnant, and beginning to experience some lower back pain and upper leg pain. She too is doing her exercises for  sacroiliac joint pain faithfully, but still in need of chiropractic treatment.

Nutrition in pregnancy

This is not going to be an extensive comment on nutrition in pregnancy. That's a big subject on its own.

What is vital is that the pregnant woman eats sufficiently omega-3 fats and oleic acid fat. Why? Because the brain is sixty percent fat, half of which is omega-3 fatty acids, and because all nerves are coated in a fatty myelin sheath consisting mainly of oleic acid.

Oleic acid and the ALA omega-3 fatty acid are found richly in many fatty foods such avocado, ground flaxseed and pecan nuts. This is not the time to cut out all the healthy fats in the diet.

The other vital component of the pregnant woman's diet is foods rich in folic acid (folate) and choline to prevent spinal cord anomalies like spina bifida.


› Exercises for sacroiliac joint pain

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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