Way 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 belt, A cheaper sacroiliac belt, working toward “the new normal”, SI belt update, plus insoles for Morton’s foot, and Pelvic rehab update: getting bodywork, exercises, kinesiotaping). I haven’t had much to add since then: getting the belt and wearing it nearly 24/7, using the insoles, continuing to gather information, get bodywork, etc., it just takes time.
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 the joint stays in place. Since I started wearing it, I haven’t had that unstable, painful feeling of my SI joint going out.
Now I have that stability without wearing the belt.
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.
(October 2018 addition: reader James R. Perez says, “I believe very much that your elastic is better than the belt I got from the doctor. Those people actually gave me a belt that doesn’t stretch or move with your hips. It’s important that you have support, but it needs to be free to allow your hips to express themselves, align and adjust themselves, so they have the opportunity to heal correctly. So these doctors who make the sacroiliac belt, I don’t think they know what they’re talking about…yet.”
James also recommends the video How to Recognize a Pelvic Problem. Thank you so much, James! There are so many comments, so if you’re just finding this post or returning to it, please read on about others’ experiences.)
I bought two core wraps, cutting them to fit with a few inches of overlap, and they are still in good shape.
The waist slimmers are made of thinner fabric, so if you want to avoid bulk around your hips, you may prefer them. I found they tended to fold and roll more easily, but that may just be my body shape.
My teacher/physical therapist Jan Hutchinson 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. It took me a year and a half.
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 now. 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.
You may also have more patience and commitment with age, so there’s some balance there.
And maaaayyyyybbbeeee, she exaggerated a tiny bit to impress on me the commitment it would take to 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 stretched-out sacroiliac ligaments to shorten.
Some things that I believe helped:
- I worked with a highly experienced physical therapist, one who also taught.
- I made bone broth, drinking a hot cup daily or using it in soups and stews. Bone broth is laden with collagen, it tastes great, and you can use it in soups and sauces. (I’m adding this in 2018: an Instant Pot is a godsend for making bone broth at home, which is way less expensive than buying it. I pressure-cook the bones of two chickens, plus chicken feet if I can get them, for two hours instead of 24.)
- If I didn’t have bone broth on hand, I started taking collagen peptides every day, especially in the summer when it was too hot to cook. Collagen is the main component of ligaments and other connective tissues. Not sure, but maybe it slowed down my acquisition of wrinkles! People do say I look younger.
- 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 with my leg muscles working evenly. I still do 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 leg muscles were not synchronized. 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 the vertical edge as you squat and rise, it helps your movements become symmetrical. Weird, but it works!
- I became much more aware of movements that strain the SI joints: 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 knees.
- 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 nearly every day. Slow mindful Sun Salutations are my jam. For a long time, I avoided the lunge, doing the Ashtanga-style jump back/jump forward. I’m good with the lunge now. I also avoided twists.
- I added tree pose because it helps my wobblier left leg become more stable, and I do bridge pose for core 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 after months of habitual wearing. 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’ve 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 new tagline: “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” ~ Helen Keller
These are all the posts I’ve written about this healing odyssey, in order from oldest to newest: