Tension in the soft tissues of the pelvis, groin, lower back, and thighs can put excess pressure on the sacroiliac joint, causing or exacerbating pain. Stretches targeted for specific muscles or muscle groups can help alleviate SI joint pain and restore some range of motion to the legs, pelvis, and lower back.
Targeted Muscle Stretches
There are several muscles that originate at the sacrum or hip bones (the iliac crests), and these muscles help provide stability for the pelvis. Reducing tension in these muscles can reduce pressure on the sacroiliac joint and across the lower back.
Common stretches for SI joint pain relief include:
- Hamstring stretches. A simple hamstring stretch consists of sitting in a chair with one leg resting on another chair straight in front of the body. In this position, reach toward the toes to gently stretch the hamstring muscle. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then alternate legs to stretch both hamstrings 5 times. There are a number of ways to safely and effectively stretch the hamstrings; which stretch works best is often a matter of personal preference.
- Quadriceps stretch. To stretch the quadriceps in the front of the thigh, stand with one arm against a wall for support. Pull the right leg up behind the body, bent at the knee, and grasp the foot or ankle with the right hand. Hold this stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the left side. Alternate legs to stretch the quadriceps 2 times each.
- Hip adductor stretch. The hip abductor muscles in the inside of the thighs help pull the legs in toward the middle of the body, and connect to the thighs from bones in the pelvis. To stretch these muscles and reduce tension on the SI joint, sit with the legs straight and apart to form a triangle, then gently lean forward toward the toes. Hold this stretch for 5 to 10 seconds, and gradually build up to holding for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Press-up stretch. Lying on the stomach, raise the upper body to the elbows and hold for 15 to 30 seconds to stretch muscles in the lower abdomen and front of the pelvis. For best results, try to keep the shoulders relaxed, down, and away from the ears while relaxing the muscles in the lower back and buttocks. Begin this stretch for 5 seconds, then build up to 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 5 to 10 times. For a more advanced press-up, raise the upper body to the hands with elbows straight.
- Single knee-to-chest isometric stretch. Lying on the back, pull one knee up toward the chest while keeping the other leg straight and touching the ground. Cross the fingers behind the thigh and gently push the knee down, holding the stretch for 5 seconds. Repeat this stretch on both sides 5 to 10 times.
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Pelvic Rotation Stretches
For a stiff sacroiliac joint (fixation), stretches that gently rotate the joint can help loosen the surrounding soft tissues and restore some natural motion. These stretches include:
- Lower trunk rotation. Lie on the back with both knees slightly bent, then gently move both knees to one side to twist the torso while keeping both shoulders flat on the ground. Hold this stretch for about 5 to 10 seconds, then repeat on the other side. This stretch helps loosen the muscles in the lower back, hips, and abdomen.
- Pelvic rotation stretch. Lying on the back with the legs straight, bring one knee into the air so the calf is parallel to the floor. Turn the foot so it’s pointed slightly away from the body to gently rotate the pelvis. For slight resistance, push the hand on the outside of the knee and hold for 5 seconds. Then, turn the foot so it’s angled slightly toward the middle of the body, push the hand on the inside of the knee, and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat each stretch 3 times. This stretch helps loosen the muscles on each side of the pelvis, but may not be recommended for all cases.
Other stretches may be recommended by a doctor, physical therapist, or other health professional as part of an individualized exercise or physical therapy program. It can be a good idea to consult with a doctor before starting new stretches to prevent further injury and ensure appropriate form.