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Stretches to Relieve SI Joint Pain

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT April 29, 2020 0 Comments

Woman Stretching

SI joint pain stretches are part of the first line of defense when it comes to stiff and sore lower back and leg muscles. Try some of the stretches listed below to keep these regions of your body strong, or to get on the track to recovery. Keep reading to learn more about the most effective stretches for SI joint pain relief.

How SI Stretches Can Help

Stretching areas affected by SI joint pain can help with pain and stiffness. While there are no muscles that attach specifically at the SI joint, there is a lot of dense connective tissue intersecting the area. These issues are part of an intricate system that provides stability to the entire trunk. That’s why stretching the surrounding muscles and tissues can provide indirect relief.

For other possible SI joint treatment options, check out our full resource.

Benefits of Stretching for Sacroiliac Joint Pain

There are many benefits to stretching. These include:

  • Relief from SI joint and back pain
  • Increased circulation for healing any injured areas
  • Relaxation for pain relief
  • Restoration of muscle balance to decrease joint dysfunction
  • Improved quality of life
  • Increased tolerance for strengthening exercises for SI joint pain

SI Joint Warmups

Simple movements of the trunk and lower body can get the SI joints warmed up and ready for movement. These can be especially helpful after sitting for too long or first thing when waking up in the morning.

To avoid reduced stiffness with these notoriously painful postures, see our full resources on sitting with SI joint pain and sleeping with SI joint pain.

  • Supine Spinal Twist

    Start by lying on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep the upper body and shoulders evenly on the floor and knees together. Then, rotate both knees to one side toward the floor (touching if possible). Focus on deep breathing and staying relaxed.

    Hold 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets. Complete in both directions. With SI joint pain, you will need to move slowly and modify the range of motion as needed to prevent aggravation.

  • Child’s Pose with Side-Bending

    Start on your hands and knees. Then bring your butt toward your heels while keeping your palms on the floor out in front of you. You will then address one side of the trunk at a time by bringing both hands to one side. Try to keep the arms outstretched as far as possible, imagining that you are reaching as far into one corner as a time.

    Hold 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets. Switch to both sides.

  • Inner Thigh Strap Stretch

    Lie on your back with one leg out straight in front of you and knee as straight as possible. With a stretching strap secure around the foot, let your leg fall out to the side (keeping the hip at around 90 degrees) until a stretch is felt in the inner thigh.

    Hold 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets. Alternatively, you can sit on the floor with the bottom of your feet together as you lean forward with your trunk.

  • Foam Roller Leg Massage

    Another great option for warming up or cooling down the leg muscles that may be contributing to SI joint pain is a foam roller. Foam rolling the hip flexors, hamstrings, or glutes are all possibilities. Simply choose the sore muscle group and slowly roll up and down, stopping to hold for 10-30 seconds on any extra tense areas.

Targeted Muscle Stretches

There are a few specific muscle groups that will respond well to targeted stretches. If you’re not sure which stretches are best for you or where to start, consider going to physical therapy for a more personalized program.

  • Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

    Get in a half-kneeling position with one bent knee and the opposite foot touching the floor. In this modified lunge position, simply shift your weight into your front foot as you extend the opposite hip. You will feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Avoid arching your low back and keep your forward knee in alignment with your toes.

    Hold 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets. Alternatively, you can also stretch in a full standing lunge position without half-kneeling.

  • Supine Hamstring Stretch (with strap)

    Lie on your back. Attach the stretching strap to your foot and straighten the knee. Then, pull the entire leg up toward your chest until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh.

    Hold 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets. If you don’t have a strap you can use a towel or hold the back of your thigh with your hands as well.

  • Figure 4 Hip Abductor Stretch

    This stretch is great for the glues, particularly the piriformis. Lie on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. To stretch the left glute, bring the outside of the left ankle to the right knee. Keep your legs relaxed as you reach with both hands behind the right thigh and then pull the legs toward your chest. Switch and repeat on the other side.

    Hold 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets on each leg.

  • Lateral Side Bend Trunk Stretch

    While standing with good posture, simply lean to one side until a stretch is felt in the side of the body. You can choose to have your hands at your side or behind your head. Do not let your hips “pop” out to the side. Instead, keep them “stacked” on top of your knees and feet. Focus on keeping the movement in the spine only.

    Hold 30-60 seconds for 2-3 sets. Do not force any motion or combine this movement with rotation.

When & How Often?

Remember that while the SI joint itself isn’t specifically being stretched with these exercises, it gives relief to muscle groups and tissues in the trunk that may be affected. Stretching is a great way to loosen up after any prolonged position, like sleeping or sitting. Additionally, if you are sore after a specific activity, try gentle stretching to promote a quicker recovery.

The SI joints can be easily aggravated so pay attention to how your body responds and symptoms change with stretching. This is a great way to gauge how often you should be stretching and then modify as needed.

Taking Precautions with SI Joint Stretches

SI joint pain can be complicated because of its unique location in the body and lack of direct muscle attachments. While gentle stretching to surrounding tissues can be helpful, always listen to your body to determine what’s best for you. If you notice a change in symptoms or onset of severe pain, or experience neurological symptoms that may be caused by other injuries or back issues, talk to a trusted medical professional for further treatment recommendations.


Next Pages:

SI Joint Stretches
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.

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