It’s been a week since I started self-treatment for SI joint pain. I’ve made some changes after talking with my teacher that I want to share, in case you’re doing this at home. (If you’re just tuning in, you may want to read my first post on this topic.)
First, I am wearing the sacroiliac belt at night while I sleep.
Since we spend about one-third of our life sleeping, and we’re unconscious while we sleep, sleep posture is extremely important when working on alignment issues like an SI joint that has been out of alignment for years.
I decided to sleep with the sacroiliac belt on 24/7 to prevent the alignment occurring during the daytime hours from being undone while I sleep. Of course I take it off to shower and swim.
Second, since I change the side I sleep on several times each night, I am using two body pillows, one for each side, to rest my upper arm and leg on. It’s important not to stretch or strain the SI joint while sleeping, and keeping the upper leg level eases tension on the joint.
I was already using a Therapeutica Sleeping Pillow, which nicely accommodates sleeping on either side as well as on the back. (If you decide to order one, please note that you need to measure your shoulder width to get the right size for your body.)
If I roll onto my back, I wedge the bottom corners of the body pillows under my knees for support to lessen strain on the SI, hip, and knee joints. If you’re mainly a back sleeper, consider putting a bolster or pillow under your knees.
I have no excuses now for not sleeping in an aligned position. Already I notice that I change positions less often during my sleep, which indicates my sleep has become more restful. (Yes, you can be stressing your body even in your sleep!)
Third, since the sacroiliac belt is adjustable, I make sure it is stretched really taut when I am doing anything strenuous — doing massage and bodywork, going for a hike, standing for long time, and working out. If I’m lying on the sofa watching a movie or sitting to eat, I may loosen it a bit.
In fact, part of my rehab program may include taking long walks with the belt on. That’s been an issue for me. Walking about 3 miles without a rest is my limit because by then, my hips are hurting. I would so love to be able to take longer walks and hikes without hip pain.
My functional movement workouts include lots of exercises that strengthen the joints: leg lowering, pushups, squats, bridge, etc. I’ve been researching and practicing other exercises to strengthen and align the pelvis.
A couple of other things: The habit-changing is going okay. When I habitually cross my legs or stand with more weight on one leg, more and more I catch myself, stop doing it, and focus on being evenly aligned.
It feels good to be aligned, and I notice that I’m not doing those things as often as I used to.
I’ve also begun to pay more attention to what I do with my feet when standing. Not collapsing in the arches is my goal. I make a kidney-bean shape to my foot, keeping the arch raised.
All these changes are making a difference after just one week. At various times, I’ve felt my soft tissues shifting: on my inner left heel, my left tibialis anterior, the inside of my left knee, in the left groin, and at a couple of places on the left SI joint. This is a good thing!
Have I mentioned that I’ve been unable to hold tree pose standing on my left leg? It’s too wobbly.
The SI belt is changing my body for the better.
Here’s a little aside about why the SI joint takes so long to heal: The joint has to be strong, because it’s where the downward pressure from the head, spine, ribs, and sacrum meets the upward pressure from the legs, which are like columns.
The sacroiliac joints are where these pressures meet. These are the longest joints in the body and are deep and inaccessible to touch because of all the ligaments connecting the sacrum and the ilium.
Ligaments are cable-like connective tissue holding the bones together. Ligaments have a tiny bit of flexibility (elastin), but their main role is to be strong and provide stability (collagen).
When ligaments get too stretched out, pain and misalignment result from the joint being too loose.
Wearing the sacroiliac belt holds the bones in place (like a hoop around a wooden barrel holds the staves together tightly). Over time, the ligaments adjust, regaining appropriate length to keep the bones aligned properly.
When that happens (and I don’t know how long that will take), I can stop wearing the belt all the time, perhaps only wearing it when or if I feel pain and taking it with me on long walks, just in case. I’m prepared for it to take a while.
To see an update on this process after 18 months, read Sacroiliac joint healed!