Located on each side of the body where your lower spine and pelvis connect, the sacroiliac (SI) joints act as shock absorbers for your back and pelvis, according to the Mayo Clinic. SI joint strengthening exercises actually mean working the muscles that surround the area to stabilize the joint.
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When the SI joint is forced to move beyond its limited range or is stressed, a painful condition called sacroiliitis can develop. This can be hard to diagnose because it typically presents as generalized pain in the lower back, legs and groin, which can be attributed to a number of muscles.
However, strengthening the muscles that surround the SI joint, including the glutes, lower back and hips, can stabilize the joint and minimize pain. Additionally, the North American Spine Society notes that gentle, low-impact aerobic activity can help by increasing blood flow to the area.
Read more: The Best and Worst Exercises for Bad Hips
Hip Abduction Exercise
To help stabilize the SI joint, focus on exercises that work the glutes, lower back and hips. One exercise that targets both the glutes and the hips, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, is the hip abduction exercise.
- Start by lying on your side with the top leg straight and the bottom leg bent.
- Slowly raise the top leg until it reaches 45 degrees and hold for five seconds, then gently lower the top leg.
- Repeat for eight repetitions, then turn over and work the other side.
A variation of the hip abduction exercise involves standing up and using resistance. The Mayo Clinic suggests fixing a resistance tube with cuffs around your ankles for stability. Stand up tall, then take a series of steps to the side, which stretches the resistance tube and works the hip muscles. Keep your knees slightly bent while stepping.
Read more: Top 15 Moves to Tone Your Glutes
Side Plank Exercise
Another SI joint-strengthening exercise that works the lower back, as well as engages the core muscles such as the oblique and the hips, is a side plank. If you find the side plank exercise to be too difficult, you can drop a knee to the floor for extra support, suggests the American Council on Exercise. As your body gets used to the exercise, you can increase the intensity by holding the plank for a longer period of time or by raising your top hand into the air, suggests the Mayo Clinic.
- Lie on your left side and position your elbow directly under your shoulder. Either stack or stagger your feet.
- Push your pelvis up so your body runs in a straight line.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, and then slowly lower down.
- Repeat one to two more times, and then turn over and work the other side.
Supine Gluteal Bridge Exercise
Work your lower back muscles and your glutes with a supine gluteal bridge exercise. When you feel like a standard bridge is too easy, increase the workload by holding one leg in the air while still maintaining level hips, says ACE.
- Lie face-up on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, like you were going to do a sit-up.
- Pressing firmly down through your feet, engage your glutes and lift them up in the air. This should create a straight line from your shoulders to the tops of your knees.
- Hold for two seconds, then slowly lower your glutes.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Once you've mastered the gluteal bridge and the harder one-legged version, graduate to a barbell hip thrust. This is a gluteal bridge exercise that incorporates a barbell resting across your pelvis for extra resistance.
Is This an Emergency?
- North American Spine Society: "SI Joint Pain"
- Mayo Clinic: "Sacroiliitis"
- American Council on Exercise: "5 Lower Back Bodyweight Exercises to Ward off Low Back Pain"
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: "Hip Conditioning Program"
- Mayo Clinic: "Slide Show: Exercises to Improve Your Core Strength"
- American Council on Exercise: "Understanding the Barbell Hip Thrust"
- Mayo Clinic: "Video: Hip Abduction Walk with Resistance Tubing"