When the healer needs healing: chronic pain in a sacroiliac joint

There’s an old saying that people go into healing professions to heal themselves.

I believe it’s true. I went to many healers seeking healing of my own body, mind, heart, and spirit. All of those healers helped me, and none hurt me.

Could I have saved myself pain, time, and money by knowing which kind of healer I needed most for what issue? Yes. I didn’t have a guide, just my own knowledge and intuition and willingness to see what worked.

For the longest time it never occurred to me that I could become a healer. I liked the people who worked on healing me. Their work seemed more interesting than my jobs in government and technology. They were obviously caring people who had honed various kinds of healing skills, and the healing work seemed to be an extension of who they were, not just a job they did.

When I finally began to think about what I wanted to do in “retirement,” healing came to mind…and here I am, in a new profession, offering massage therapy, bodywork, and changework.

For 19 years, since a car wreck on April 24, 1996, I have had semi-chronic pain in one of my sacroiliac joints. In the accident, my lap belt held, my shoulder belt didn’t, the air bag didn’t deploy, there were two head-banging impacts (I was knocked unconscious), and my sacroiliac joints took the brunt of the trauma when my upper body tried to separate from my lower body.

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Last week I got the help I needed to know how to fix it. 

In the Advanced Program at Lauterstein-Conway Massage School, we’ve been studying orthopedic massage, and last Monday I volunteered to be the subject when my teacher, Jan Hutchinson, a 40-year physical therapist and massage therapist, demonstrated the tests to determine alignment issues in the pelvis.

Outcome? My pelvis has a lateral tilt, an anterior tilt, one ilium is tilted more than the other, my pubis is tilted, my sacrum is tilted and rotated, and some of my movements are still guarded, protecting me from pain.

Wow. It’s (I’m) still that messed up after all these years.

Jan then put a sacroiliac belt on me, a broad band of thick stretchy material that she pulled tight around my hips and closed with Velcro. I had never heard of one before. I wore it all afternoon. My pelvis felt tight and stable, and I could tell that some of the ligaments holding the pelvis together were being stretched, causing a slight dull ache. It’s been way worse, though, and the feeling of stability was awesome.

When I got home, I ordered one for myself, similar to this. While waiting for the belt to arrive, I went to a drug store and bought something else I was unfamiliar with, a chemically-powered heat wrap for the low back and hips. Prolonged heat penetrates tissues, relieves pain, makes dense tight tissue more pliable and elastic, and relaxes muscles. I put it around my hips with the heat pouches over my SI joints and left it on for about 12 hours.

By then, the belt had arrived. I took the heat wrap off and put the belt on. I’ve worn it for three days now. Besides the pull on some pelvic ligaments, I’ve noticed some tightness in my left leg, inside the knee, over the tibialis anterior, and in the arch of my foot.

I am reshaping my body.

I will do what it takes to align my hips. I’d love to be able to run and go on long hikes without pain.

The plan is to wear the belt during all my waking hours for 6-8 weeks (except when showering, receiving bodywork, swimming, etc.). Then I will wear it when I’m working and working out for another 4-6 weeks, and then I’ll wear it as needed, if I feel pain.

I will accompany this with changing my bad postural habits:

  • No more standing with most of my weight on one leg.
  • No more crossing my legs at the knee.
  • When I sleep on my side, I will use a body pillow to keep my entire upper leg and foot at hip height so as not to create strain on the SI joint.
  • I will do daily exercises.

I will report back on my progress, and I hope I can report that my pain is gone, my pelvis well-aligned. Wish me well, please.


To find out how this process ended 18 months later, read SI joint healed! 

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