Sacroiliac joint pain can make it hard to stay fit.
In another article, we list and discuss a number of sacroiliac-friendly exercises that help strengthen joints without making things worse. It is possible to get a good night’s sleep even if you suffer from SI joint dysfunction or injury.
But knowing how to avoid SI joint pain exercises that can aggravate the condition is important as well. It can mean the difference between staying active and forced rest, resulting in increased loss of fitness.
Before we go into sacroiliac joint pain exercises to avoid, keep in mind that they may be preceded by complete rest as prescribed by your doctor.
Exercises To Avoid
Under normal circumstances, most exercises are beneficial. However, some can worsen sacroiliac joint pain and can prolong the healing process.
Be sure to avoid exercise during the healing period and to only resume gradually afterward, to prevent any further injuries.
Avoid Sit Ups, Crunches, and Planks
It may seem counter-intuitive, but strengthening your core with dynamic movements or rigid sustained poses can actually increase lower back pain.
Sit-ups and crunches place a lot of strain on the lower back. The plank position also isn’t ideal for sacroiliac joint pain sufferers.
This is because the core muscles work with small contractions to stabilize the pelvic area and lower back. These muscles don’t have (or need) a lot of power. They apply consistent gentle force to stabilize the area.
Instead of these core exercises that aggravate sacroiliac dysfunction, try specific yoga, Pilates, or tai chi core strengthening moves with the help of a qualified instructor.
Avoid Certain Swim Strokes
Swimming is a great low-impact activity. However, avoid certain strokes including freestyle (which involves twisting the torso), the breaststroke (which involves arching the back), and the butterfly (which involves arching the back).
The sidestroke could be an option if you swim with the “good” side of your body down, although try it with caution to prevent stretching or pinching the joints in your lower back.
This leaves a gentle backstroke as the only stroke that is least likely to stress the pelvic area. Be sure to monitor your body and stop immediately if any swim stroke hurts your back.
You could also use a kick board as long as your entire torso is supported on the board to prevent arching your lower back.
Swim at a slow pace and avoid any dynamic twisting motion. Once you reach the end of the lane, be very careful with turns until your sacroiliac joint has healed. This means no flip turns, only slow and gentle open turns.
Avoid High-Intensity Dynamic Sports
Avoid the following sports that involve rapid twisting (especially while bent over), ballistic high-impact moves, bending and reaching, and rapid weight shifts while you're healing.
Sports and activities to avoid include:
- Ballet and other dance
- Climbing (outdoors or climbing wall)
- Contact sports (football, rugby, boxing, wrestling, or combat martial arts)
- Endurance cycling
- Horseback riding
- Ice or inline skating
- Javelin or other throwing/twisting disciplines
- Jumping (vaulting, high jump, steeplechase, etc.)
- Mountain biking and BMX
- Paddle sports such as kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding
- Racquet sports (tennis, pickleball, racquetball, squash, badminton, ping pong, etc.)
- Running (road or trail)
- Single-leg movements such as lunges or step-ups, elliptical trainers, and stair climbers
- Skate skiing, nordic skiing, and alpine skiing
- Splitting wood
- Water polo
- Weight lifting that involves lifting weights above your waist
Avoid Low-Intensity Activities That Involve Bending, Twisting, or Balancing
Even "mellow" sports like golf, archery, bowling, or curling could stress your SI joints. Avoid them while healing.
Stretches to Avoid
Generally, any stretch can help alleviate SI joint pain. However, aim for balance by not over-stretching one side of your body while other muscles remain tight. A chest stretch, for example, can counter an upper back stretch. Focus on stretching muscles that are tight, and not muscles that are already loose.
Some people say that any knee to chest stretch is bad for SI joints, but others swear by full knee to chest stretches. Start with a one knee to chest stretch and then try both knees to the chest, but only if it doesn’t cause any discomfort and offers relief.
The Dos and Don’ts of Exercising with SI
DO: Get moving as soon as possible, but ease into it. Start with low-intensity exercises like walking. “Motion is lotion” as long as healing takes precedence over peak fitness. Gentle movement will keep your joints lubricated, your blood flowing, and your muscles from atrophying. If your SI joint doesn’t hurt during movement or after, that’s of course a good sign.
DON’T: Don’t jump right into high intensity workouts. Any exercise for SI joint pain should be preceded by a warm up to get your muscles and connective tissue ready for a workout, and to give you an opportunity to determine whether you can or should exercise or if your lower back pain needs a few more days of rest.
DO: Start slowly and get your body ready for exercise, even if you’re already fit. Warm up with a 10-minute slow-to-moderate walk or stationary cycling. If the warm up doesn’t aggravate your hip or lower back pain, you’re good to go on to other sacroiliac joint pain exercises.
Yoga and tai chi, with the guidance of a qualified yoga or tai chi instructor, start their movement series gradually so there’s no need for an extra warm up beforehand.
Everyday Activities That Can Worsen SI Joint Pain
Everyday activities can cause SI pain too. For pain relief and healing, avoid the following everyday movements.
Rapid twisting to one side can be hard on the low back. Injuries often take place during unexpected moments, like when walking a dog and it jerks at the leash.
Reaching to get something from a tall cabinet or reaching sideways such as passing dishes at the dinner table should be avoided, especially while healing the SI joint. The lifting of heavy objects should be avoided entirely.
Transitional moves such as getting up from a chair or getting out of the car can stress SI joints. Get up slowly, being careful not to twist your back.
If you need to lift something, hinge at the hips to load the hamstrings or use your legs with your knees bent, rather than just bending at the waist.
Don’t carry your baby or toddler on your hip while healing your SI joint since this throws the hip out and puts a lot of strain on the pelvis and spine. Don't carry heavy objects at all while healing your sacroiliac joint.
If you cross your legs and shift your weight onto one side of the body, especially for long periods, this shifts your spine and pelvis out of alignment and may cause pain. Alleviate discomfort by sitting with your legs uncrossed, feet flat on the floor, with your weight evenly distributed on both butt cheeks, and your back upright (don’t slouch or slump).
Standing for long periods can also cause problems. While standing, try to keep both feet flat on the floor and your weight evenly distributed on both feet while maintaining good posture.
Avoid standing for prolonged periods. A cushioned surface and supportive shoes can help if you can’t avoid standing.
To sleep comfortably, try lying on your “good” side with a pillow between your legs. Check out some of our other useful content to learn more about how to sleep with SI joint pain.
Recommended SI Joint Pain Exercises
For specifics, we also have more content on recommended SI joint pain exercises. So, in this section, we’ll just cover some of the basics.
Here are some suggestions for what you can do during active recovery:
Lower body: Focus on even weight distribution on both feet, hips facing forward, and no bending at the waist, such as squats and calf raises.
Upper body: Maintain good posture (no arching or twisting). Don't lift anything above your waist. Try bicep and tricep exercises with light weights, but keep the weights below your shoulders.
Core: Focus on gentle movements like yoga and tai chi to strengthen the stabilizing muscles.
Swimming gently can also be a great low-impact exercise.
Full-body fitness: Walking outdoors or on a treadmill is the best low-impact, non-twisting activity for recovery. Keep the pace mellow and avoid hills. You can use very light hand weights for upper body resistance.
Full-body fitness: Yoga and tai chi involve one-legged balancing, bending, and twisting, but the movements are slow and controlled. Your instructor should advise you on which pose or movement to eliminate or modify to protect your lower back.
Doctors may also suggest solutions for pain management. Meanwhile, physical therapists often have useful suggestions for staying active without compromising your health. Any fitness trainer you’re working with should know about your condition and take it into account to prevent further SI joint injury.
Never before has the treatment of Sacroiliac joint pain been so accessible for my patients from home with individualized programs, and daily use PlatinumLED Biomax panels.
Functional Medicine Doctor of Physical Therapy
Dr. Alayna Newton, PT, DPT, FAFS
Red Light Therapy for Joint Pain
While your sacroiliac joint is healing, you can support the process and relieve pain with red light therapy.
The healing properties of red and near infrared (NIR) light, collectively known as red light therapy, are well-known. This natural light treatment stimulates healing at the cellular level.
Red light therapy temporarily causes acute inflammation as part of the healing process but just as importantly, significantly reduces chronic inflammation that lingers once the initial healing response has finished.
It stimulates cellular metabolism and especially mitochondrial energy production and cell signaling, effectively boosting the performance of all treated cells. This includes collagen-producing fibroblasts, stem cells, and nerve cells.
Red light therapy has an analgesic effect to help relieve discomfort.
It also improves blood and lymph microcirculation to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the damaged area and remove waste and toxins.
Hundreds of studies demonstrate the benefits of red and NIR wavelengths with no side effects.
Red Light Therapy Panels for Home SI Treatment
Platinum Therapy Lights offers the most advanced high-powered LED light therapy devices on the consumer market, delivering intensely focused red and NIR light to treat the affected area(s).
These are far more effective than RLT wraps, because they offer a broader range of wavelengths while facilitating treatment at a distance from the panel that allows for a mixture and overlapping of the red light wavelengths required for a deep-tissue, therapeutic effect.
The BIOMAX Series red light therapy panels are affordable and convenient. They have the most light-energy output in their class, delivering a potent combination of red and near-infrared wavelengths with scientifically validated therapeutic effects.
Treatment is easy. You can position yourself comfortably with your bare back close to the panel for 3-20 minutes every day for treatment.
The BIOMAX series panels can also be mounted on a horizontal stand so you can lie down comfortably. Or they can be placed on a vertical stand if you prefer to sit or stand.
NIR light has the ability to penetrate bone. There, it has a stimulating effect on stem cells, which are an important part of the healing process.
No other SI joint pain treatment options take this approach of supporting healing from the inside-out.
Daily use will give you the best results. Once the SI joint has healed, you can safely continue with maintenance treatments to help prevent reinjuring the SI joint.
- Treats low back pain
- Primes muscles for exercise and aids with muscle recovery after workouts
- Accelerates wound healing
- Treats osteoarthritis
- Treats neuropathy
- Aids with weight loss
Check out the PlatinumLED Therapy Lights Learning Center to explore the many ways to enhance your health using red light … and learn more about the therapeutic benefits of the industry’s best red light therapy panels.