Sacroiliac joint healed!

Back in late June 2015, I wrote about using a sacroiliac belt for pain in that joint. (See When the healer needs healing: chronic pain in a sacroiliac joint).

I posted a few updates. (See Update on using the sacroiliac beltA cheaper sacroiliac belt, working toward “the new normal”, and SI belt update, plus insoles for Morton’s foot.)

It’s now January 2017, and I’m here to give you an update, prompted by a couple of comments I’ve received recently from readers who are suffering from SI joint pain.

I finally stopped wearing the belt last month, in December 2016. That’s right, I wore it most of the time for 18 months, a year and a half. My pelvis feels pretty aligned now. It’s not perfect but it is strong and tight enough that it stays in place . Since I started wearing it, I haven’t had that unstable, painful feeling of my SI joint going out of place.

Now I have that without wearing the belt.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-5-49-53-pm

The belt I ended up using more than any was a core wrap, measuring 4″ x 48″, made of stretchy neoprene with really good velcro. These are intended to hold hot or cold packs against the torso, but they work well as SI belts and are inexpensive.

I bought two of them, cutting them to fit with just a few inches of overlap, and they are still in good shape.

My teacher/physical therapist told me back in 2015 that it could take a couple of years to train the joint back into alignment by wearing the belt and doing exercises. I stopped blogging about it, because (1) that’s discouraging, and (2) it was just going to take time, and I didn’t have anything very interesting to report.

I want you to know that it might not take you that long to heal your unstable SI joint. The reason she said that is because my accident occurred in 1996, so we are talking about 19 years of pelvic instability. 19 years! That affects a lot of other things in the body.

I’m nearly 64. It just takes longer to heal the older you get. The older body doesn’t produce as much collagen as it does when you’re young.

Maybe she exaggerated a tiny bit to impress on me the commitment it would take to finally recover.

Commit I did. Wearing the belt made me look slightly fatter. Sometimes the velcro rubbed my skin uncomfortably. It got hot and itchy at times. But it held my pelvis together tightly enough over time to retrain my uneven sacroiliac ligaments to shorten.

Some other things that I believe helped:

  • I started taking gelatin or collagen hydrolysate powder every day. (Collagen dissolves better.) It is the main component of ligaments and other connective tissues. Not sure, but maybe it slowed down my acquisition of facial wrinkles! People do say I look younger. screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-6-22-36-pm
  • I made bone broth using chicken, turkey, duck, beef, or lamb bones, drinking a hot cup daily or using it in soups and stews. Bone broth is laden with collagen, and it tastes a lot better and is of course more versatile than a powder, which is handy in the summer when it’s too hot to cook. (If you’re interested, the slow cooker I used and some bone broth cookbooks are on my Products I Recommend page, along with other stuff I mention in this post.)
  • I worked hard on my squats. At first, I had to work up to a full squat, and I just went half-way down to chair-level. Eventually I was able to go all the way down with my feet flat on the floor. I still do 20 squats several times a week and will benefit from doing them the rest of my life.

Tip for doing squats: I wrote earlier about how my squats were kind of creaky and my left and right legs were not in synchrony. If you do squats in a doorway with your hands holding the doorknobs with the door edge lined up with your midline and your eyes gazing at it as you squat and rise, it helps your movements become symmetrical.

  • I became much more aware of movements that strain the SI joints, like twisting, turning, and lunging.
  • Besides squats, I do plank, pushups, and bridge to strengthen my core.
  • I changed my habits, no longer standing with more weight on one foot than the other. I’m still working on not crossing my legs.
  • I still sleep with the two body pillows and the Therapeutica sleeping pillow for good posture when I’m catching some zzzzzs.
  • I do some yoga every day. Slow mindful Sun Salutations are my jam. For a long time, I avoided the lunge, doing the Ashtanga jump back/jump forward. I’m good with the lunge now.
  • I added tree pose because it helps my wobblier left leg become more stable, and I do bridge pose for glute strength.
  • I’ve followed a Weston A. Price Foundation diet, which is anti-inflammatory, and currently am experimenting with a ketogenic diet (high fat, moderate protein, low carb) to lose fat and preserve muscle.
  • I still wear the Morton’s foot insoles when I’m going to do much standing, walking, or hiking. My stamina has improved. I did a 4.8 mile hike in the mountains of Big Bend National Park in December with the SI belt on. I was tired afterwards, but I wasn’t feeling pain in my SI joint like I used to.
  • My body told me it was time to test not wearing it. I forgot to put it on one night and the following day, felt fine, and figured I’d test not wearing it for a few days to see if the stability held. I put it back on once or twice, but haven’t since.

I hope this encourages all of you to know that if you really commit to healing an injury like this, no matter how old it is or you are, you can get better. Although our bodies are healing themselves all the time, there’s so much you can do to support that process.

My tagline: “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” ~ Helen Keller

36 thoughts on “Sacroiliac joint healed!

  1. Amazing.

    I came across your site by chance.

    Ive had back issues for the last 10 years…im a 40 year old male…slightly overweight.

    I put out my back in 2005..had MRIs done and Doctors wanted to operate to fix 2 herniated discs i was diagnosed with L4 L5…L5 S1. I have stuck with stretching and managed to get over bad sciatica. I can control it well now and learnt about a forward tipped pelvis I probably have and the muscles that need stretching to help reverse this.

    Over the last few years though Ive had weird back spasms..emanating from around the iliac crest…putting me out for days at a time. My work is computer based which hasn’t helped the back…but i was told it was all disc related.

    Let us cut you open and fix those darn discs!

    Uh uh! Not coming near me with your scalpel!

    Over the years Ive been to physios..chiros…cupping therapists…acupuncturists…some of which helped with the symptoms….but the underlying problem was still there…instability…back pain…spasms which could come on out of the blue….with a worrying increase in frequency over the last 2 years. What on Earths going on? Why is my back so bad?! Im going insane trying to figure this out.

    After more reading and researching.. the SI joint came up….and things started to make sense! Seems like a lot of back pain is actually SI joint related! I knew i wasn’t that unfit! I had tried so many meds and therapies. Moving around…getting into cars and chairs…why does it seem like the bottom half of me wants to fall off….whats that horrible stretch in the lower back when bending over!?Why am i becoming so crippled?!

    Doctors seem to have difficulty in identifying the SI joint as a root cause which explains why it hasnt been diagnosed as the culprit in my case.

    So how do i know with a lot of certainty my SI joints are playing up? Simply…I made a makeshift SI type belt at home and put it on after reading how.

    WOW!!!!

    I cant remember the last time I ever felt such stability! Like some one gave me a new back!

    So yes..Ive self diagnosed myself…thank God!

    My plan of action is to get a good serola belt…take NSAIDs to remove any inflammation thats built up over the years…start to take collagen to build up the ligaments which are definitely sprained…possibly torn…keep on stretching and start to walk/swim.

    Your journey has given me hope. Its reassuring to read how well you have recovered.

    The website is a great read and has filled me with optimism.

    Please do share any othe advice you may have.

    Thank you immeasurably.

    Shahid

    • Wow, what great story, Shahid! It can’t hurt to try belting the SI joints to see if your pelvis feels more stable. Good for you for not going for surgery and for stretching. The only advice I have is (1) take turmeric rather than NSAIDs for inflammation because NSAIDs may not be safe over the long term, and (2) be careful stretching, especially anything asymmetrical at the pelvis (avoid lunges and twisting the pelvis, anything that can stretch out the SI joint ligaments) and when you bend, hinge at the hips, keeping the low back straight.

      I’d love to hear back about your progress.

      • Hi MaryAnn,

        I totally agree with you.

        Turmeric is excellent.

        I took it for a while but them stopped as it didn’t do my stomach any favors, but I think its time to try it again, especially that now I’m on the road to recover…fingers crossed!

        Regarding stretching, I totally avoid lunging or twisting and have found some great PDF’s detailing safe stretching for SI joint issues which don’t take an hour to do and really make a difference.

        I’d be glad to share these and YouTube videos that have helped.

        The makeshift SI belt is on as we speak and seriously, it feels as though I have a new back.

        The fear of moving, getting up from a chair, getting into a car, lifting bags, has reduced drastically. It was really beginning to affect me mentally and family thought I was going mad.

        Its hard for them to understand what’s going on…..just a bit of back pain…ahh…be a man!

        I’m just wondering how many poor souls are out there that have had disc operations when actually their SI was out of check….so tragic.

        Apologies for the disjointed previous message. I was typing from my phone, which is never good if you want to put more than one sentence together!

        I’ll keep you posted with progress for sure.

        Thanks MaryAnn

  2. I too am wearing a an SI Joint belt due to severe sciatica which I have had in my right leg and foot since June 2016.
    After eight weeks of pain I visited my GP and she referred me to the hospital to see a specialist orthopaedic nurse who then referred me for an MRI scan which I had in August. The result of that was, ” a slight protrusion at L4/5″ and so for that I received an epidural steroid injection in October. It gave no relief at all. I then went back to the hospital in December to ask for another epidural (I had been told that only one in three work so I figured a second may work) this time the Consultant saw me and looking at the MRI scan he said I have, “a degenerating disc at L4/5 and if he removes the disc my sciatica will be cured”. I said NO, no way are you operating to which he said I have three choices, take painkillers and do nothing, have the operation or try another injection BUT if I have the injection he believed all I am doing is delaying the operation by four months. I had the injection…. a nerve block injection at the root of L5 on January 24 and again it has not worked.
    On top of all this I have scoliosis and my left leg is one inch shorter then my right leg and this hasn’t been addressed at all. I am now waiting for a hospital appointment to get my short leg syndrome addressed by the orthotics department. So, in the mean time, I am leaning to the left, in severe pain on my right which prevents me from driving my car, standing to cook, walking my dog etc, etc. I am drinking copious amounts of water, taking turmeric capsules from Healthspan, Joint Synergix and Liquiflex also by Healthspan, placing a pillow between my knees at night, doing my best to stay positive although I am tired and feeling low and trying so hard to believe I will get better!
    I turn 55 on June 1st and feel older than my Dad who is in his 80’s, my MIL is quicker and more agile than me.
    Thank you for writing about your experience and for giving me some real hope. I will revisit this sight to re read your story when I need a boost.

    Rachael x

    • Hi, Rachael. Thanks for sharing your story. It is possible for the disc to move back into place, but you would need to work with an experienced advanced, bodyworker or yoga therapist who’s worked with herniated/protruding discs before. (And of course insurance will not cover it, your doctor will not approve of it, and I don’t know if you live in a place where such treatment is available.)

      This can also help with the scoliosis and leg length discrepancy. You don’t say whether the leg length difference is functional (uneven hips due to scoliosis) or structural (leg bones different lengths), or how severe your scoliosis is, but it could be all related. Craniosacral therapy can also help with the pain.

      Caring thoughts for your path toward wellness!

  3. Hi MaryAnn,

    Do you mind sharing the exercises you were taught to do by your trainer and also the frequency you were told to perform them?

    Anything additional to what I’m doing at present would be most welcomed.

    I’ve been to physio’s and all they seems to be interested in is booking you in so they can claim off of the insurance!

    Rachael, my thoughts and prayers are with you.

    What helped me a lot with sciatica was stretching the piriformis muscle and also doing pigeon pose stretches. You can find how to do these fairly easily online.

    The only way to see if they will help is to try them and see.

    Inversion therapy might help as the logic behind decompressing the spine and getting those naughty discs to come off the nerve makes sense.

    I must say that I tried decompression and it does seem to have helped with the sciatica.

    You can buy inexpensive decompression tables online.

    Alternatively, if you can build a little incline at home you can lay down on that would also serve a similar purpose….gravity is gravity!

    To good health.

    Peace.

    Shahid

    • Shahid, my exercises were prescribed specifically for me by my trainer, based on what I could and could not do. For instance, at first I did sitting and rising, over and over, keeping good form, lowering the seat when I could maintain good form. You need a trained observer to watch your form and tell you when you are losing it and help you get it back. Eventually I worked up to doing full squats. That’s just one exercise. If you want to know more about this, find a trainer who uses the Functional Movement System devised by Gray Cook.

      Thank you for sharing what has worked for you. I agree, try things to see what helps, and when you are trying something new, move very slowly and listen to your body. Stop before you feel pain. Eventually you will be able to move farther without pain. Pain is there for a reason! It means stop!

      • Question….. did you always exercise with your belt on or off? I know you said you slept with it, but I sleep on my back and don’t normally move so I take it off. Also take it off when I exercise and do the isometric exercises. I was just curious what you did. Thanks so much for your response. Bette

      • Hi, Bette. I always exercised with the belt on, because certain movements can strain the SI joint, pulling on the ligaments that need to shorten for pelvic stability. These movements can include walking, running, jumping, twisting, turning, and lunging.

        If you sleep on your back all night and don’t toss-turn-twist in your sleep, you should be fine sleeping without the belt on. I wish I could do that!

  4. Hello:

    I too am dealing with SI joint pain. The SI belt helps but am developing hip bursitis now from it. Did you have that problem ever? Thanks for your response.

    • Bette, thanks for sharing what’s happening with your body. I did not have hip bursitis. Be sure that the belt is between the top of your hip bone and the greater trochanter of the femur (bone at the top outer thigh). If you are placing it over your greater trochanters, you are compressing the bursas there. That is too low. If you have a small body or your belt is too wide, consider getting a narrower belt or cutting it to size. Notice the belt is slightly crooked in this image — not necessary! Image courtesy of ActiveOrtho.com.

      Where to place a sacroiliac belt

      • Thank you so much for your response. I bought a searla belt and that has helped, plus my therapy doc has offered several strengthening exercises that are actually helping. I know it is going to be a road to travel, but I am actually seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and this page has been a God send. Thank you again for your blog. Blessings!!

      • I also wanted to share to anyone who is reading this blog that if you haven’t tried Rock Tape or KT Tape (you can google it or youtube as well, to help with the pain it is well worth researching. I am using it along with the belt and my exercises and it is definitely a Godsend!

      • I too seem to have SI joint problems. I have bulging disc L5S1 and h ave had two injections. Next injections are for my SI joint. I have bursitis too and the SI belt has made it too painful to wear. I have tried adjusting it, but can’t seem to avoid the bursitis area. 😦

      • Thanks for your comment, Cindy. I haven’t had bursitis but understand there’s a lot of discomfort with it. I’m guessing you have trochanteric bursitis, and although the SI belt should be worn above the trochanter, I can see how it could still create pressure on the inflamed bursa. Your body knows! Good luck with your healing, dear.

    • Gareth, over time, I worked my way up to 3 sets each of 30 squats and bridges, and 20 full-body push-ups, and to holding full plank for 90 seconds. This was under the supervision of a trainer, who made sure I used perfect form to avoid further injury and who carefully gauged my abilities.

    • I did not, Gareth, but it would be a good exercise for people with SI joint pain, since the weight of the upper body is on the “sitz bones” and the SI joints are not weight-bearing. Swimming is good too. Walking: wear a belt and stop before you feel discomfort. Running: nope. The SI joints take too much of a pounding, which you want to avoid until they’ve recovered.

      • Ok thanks, so did you stop wearing your si belt in bed at about 3 and a half weeks and wore mainly when you were active during the day ?

  5. Gareth, I wore my SI belt for a year and a half nearly 24/7, except when showering or swimming. It became habit because I really, really wanted to restore pelvic stability, and it was worth it to me. I was told it was especially important to wear when sleeping, because we are unconscious then and can find ourselves in weird postures. I was also told that it might take two years.

    I realize it’s disheartening to hear that, but what that long time period does is to allow the sacroiliac ligaments to shorten, providing stability. It’s not that easy to get ligaments to shorten, but it might not take so long for someone younger or with a more recent injury (I was working on a 20-year-old injury). It takes time for ligaments to shorten, and anything that stretches them out is means starting over.

  6. Thanks for the info, just one more question , were you unable to do any exercises when you first started your rehabilitation?

  7. Gareth, I had to work up to doing full squats with proper form, and for a long time, my leg muscles would alternately work, right then left, as I moved down or up. They weren’t used to working in synchrony. Doing them in a doorway with the vertical door (or anything vertical if not in a doorway) in my line of vision helped my legs work more smoothly together as I did squats.

    I also did pushups from my knees at first, and I couldn’t hold a plank for even 30 seconds.

  8. Which yoga poses did you do and are they specific to help realign the pelvis and sacrum ? Appreciate all the information you are giving me so thanks again

    • I thought I would jump in here. I think every situation obviously is unique to each person. I have been getting stronger every day with praying, swimming and strengthening. I found this on youtube, and absolutely love it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOEaotZCIP4&t=517s
      It’s called Align your pelvis and get rid of SI joint pain. It really seems to be helping me and I thoroughly enjoy it. Good luck!

      • Thanks so much for sharing, Bette. Yes, every situation is unique. What’s worked for me might not be right for someone else. The main takeaway I hope people get is that you CAN heal your body after an injury and experience less or no pain and move freely again. It may take some trial and error, and most important, listening to your body. Great video, and I’m so glad this is working for you.

      • Yay!! I am so glad that video is helping you. It helps me as well. Thanks for your response!!

  9. Gareth, I did (and do) Sun Salutations every day. I only did symmetrical asanas, avoiding lunges and twists, anything that strained my SI joints. So: mountain, l-shaped poses, plank, downward facing dog, cobra, etc. Here’s a video of Surya Namaskar A (I jumped back as well as forward): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9P5PSqmnu88. I just discovered this: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-tips-to-relieve-sacroiliac-joint-pain. Judith Hanson lasater is a respected PT as well as yoga teacher, and I trust her teachings re: yoga and injury.

  10. How long did it take before you having daily pain ? Just so I feel like I’m getting somewhere? I stopped wearing my si belt after 4 weeks and the pain came back with a vengeance, which was daft really, but I keep feeling like is this condition something else , but now I have reverted back to your learnings

    • Gareth, I don’t want to discourage you, but I wore the SI belt for a year and a half, nearly 24/7. It took that long for my stretched out, damaged sacroiliac ligaments to shorten so my pelvic was stable again. My PT told me that it takes time and consistency wearing the belt to get that to happen. It might not take you that long, depending on your age and how long ago you were injured. But 4 weeks is definitely not enough.

      Try wearing it for 6 months, then go without and notice if you feel stable and pain-free. At the FIRST SIGN of instability/pain, put it back on for a month. Then test again.

  11. Hi. Thank you for all this info. I’m going to try it. My SI s have been out since my second pregnancy 30 years ago. I made way too much elastin, not been the same since.
    My chiro encouraged me to get a belt but only to use it for a short time because my muscles would grow weak as I came to rely on it. And to only put it on after a session when I knew I was straight, otherwise it holds you in the wrong position. What do you think about those warnings?
    Thank you

    • Hi, Belinda. I’m sorry you’ve been suffering. The reason I wore an SI belt for 1.5 years was to allow my sacral ligaments to shorten since they were stretched out unevenly. I wore the belt above my greater trochanters and pubic bone but below the ASISs. My hip joints were free to move, and I didn’t feel impaired in movement with the belt on. (I did avoid movements that stretched the SI ligaments, such as twisting and lunging.) My pelvis and whole body felt much more stable with the belt on, and after a long LONG while, my body held onto the stability without the belt. Wearing it combined with seeing a PT and doing exercises kept me aligned and stable much better than not wearing the belt.

      You might ask this chiropractor what his/her experience has been with this injury, and if you could talk to a previous patient he or she has helped recover using this method. You could also ask another chiropractor, ask a PT, do online research yourself, or just notice how stable you feel. I was told it takes a long time for ligaments to shorten, and if I took off the belt, they would stretch out, and it would be like starting over.

      Also, from what I’ve experienced, chiropractors like to create a dependency (you must see only them and do what they say, regularly for years). Physical therapists are prohibited in their code of ethics from creating dependent relationships of their patients. Their job is to fix you and get you well. I prefer working with physical therapists. If they’re really good, positive word of mouth will keep their practice full.

  12. Hey MaryAnn, I came across your post here and am amazed someone has actually overcome this — I’ve been dealing with this pain since I was 19 (I’m 29 now, turning 30 in January) and spent years with people trying to ‘adjust’ my joint back into place or believing I was having issues with my L5/S1. Honestly, long term many of these treatments could have left me worse off than I was beforehand. This is, in spite of the fact, the SI joint injections were the only thing that ever provided me short-term relief.

    Unless the joint is actually out of place, I know the goal is stability, stability, stability.

    I’m interested in chatting a little bit more over email about what your pain exactly feels like and what exercises you may be doing if you could spare the time!

    • Matt, thanks for commenting. Adjusting the joint will most likely not hold until the ligaments shrink, since that’s what holds the joint together and provides stability. I hear from a lot of commenters about an ongoing search for effective treatment. You are welcome to email me. I have very little pain now and am working on fine-tuning my pelvic alignment. The best video I’ve found is Align Your Pelvis and Get Rid of SI Joint Pain for Good, on YouTube, taught by a Pilates instructor. Another commenter mentioned it, and I’ve found it very helpful.

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