Mysterious pains in your lower back can be hard to figure out, even for a medical professional. There are so many bones, nerves, tendons and ligaments that could be the source of your discomfort. If sacroiliac joint inflammation is causing your pain, running might be tough. A doctor, physical therapist, or even your own instincts can guide you through how to run with an SI joint problem.
The SI Joint
Your hips are two large bones called the ilia. They look like two gigantic elephant ears that are curved forward. There's one ilium on each side of your hips. They connect the bottom of your spine, known as the sacrum, to your femur, which is your leg bone.
The sacrum, which is more commonly known as the tailbone, sits right below the lumbar spine. It's basically five vertebrae that are fused together. It looks like an upside-down triangle. Your sacrum sits between both of your ilia.
SI Joint Movement
When you walk, your ilium rotate back and forth. When one leg goes back, the ilium on that side tilts forward, and vice versa. That means your ilia are constantly moving on your sacrum. Since running has more range of motion than walking, there is even more movement at the SI joint, where the sacrum and ilia meet.
Read More: SI Joint Stretches & Exercises
Even though there is some movement, the SI joint is still very strong and rigid. You don't want much movement there because your hips provide stability for your legs and spine. There are a number of ligaments, dense bands of connective tissue, that anchor the hip bones and sacrum together.
These ligaments are tough and hard to break. However, if something happens, they can stretch out or tear. If that happens you're going to get more movement at the SI joint then you want. All of this extra motion, not to mention damage to a ligament, means that there will be swelling. Blood rushes to the area and now you have an inflamed SI joint.
Taking Time Off
Since running does cause movement at the SI joint, you'll probably want to take it easy for a while. There is also a lot of jarring in running that puts pressure on the SI joint. All this jarring can cause more stress to an already-injured SI joint.
See A Medical Professional
While you're taking time off, it's wise to see a doctor. They can tell you if your pain is indeed from your SI joint or if it's coming from a spine injury.
Assuming you have a sacroiliac joint injury, it might bother you while you're sitting or sleeping. Avoid sleeping in uncomfortable positions and stand or walk as much as possible during the day. Sitting puts pressure on the sacroiliac joint that can make things worse.
Try to rest until your injury no longer hurts while you run. When you're ready to come back, start by checking with your doctor or physical therapist. They might prescribe a heel lift for you to correct an imbalance on the left or right side of your SI joint.
Difference In Hip Height
Rarely will someone injure both the left and right sides of the SI joint. Usually it will be the left or right side. That's because too much movement with one hip socket usually injures it in the first place. Upon further examination, your doctor might find that one side of your hips is higher than the other while you're standing around, resting.
Read More: The Best Stretches for Sacroiliac Pain
If your hips are uneven it means that one of your SI joints will be under more pressure than the other, and be more likely to get injured. To correct this, you might get a heel lift under the foot of the lower hip.
Once you've gone through resting or treatment and your SI joint is no longer inflamed, you can start running again. The important thing is to take it slow to avoid causing any more problems at the joint.