You know that working your back muscles is crucial for spine health, but does your workout include sacrum exercises? This bony structure stabilizes your pelvis and forms the base of your spine. Like other structures in your back, it's vulnerable to wear-and-tear, fractures and trauma.
Exercises for Sacrum Pain
The sacrum supports the weight of your upper body, which is why it's important to keep it strong. If you have sacrum pain, a physiotherapist may recommend sacral mobilization exercises, sacroiliac joint (SI) strengthening exercises and more. Stretching and flexibility exercises may help too, states Saint Luke's Health System. It all comes down to the cause of your symptoms.
In the meantime, you can try to ease the pain with yoga and gentle exercises that help stretch and strengthen the sacrum and SI joints. Focus on movements that engage the rectus abdominis, biceps femoris and erector spinae — the muscles that help stabilize the SI joints. Crunches with the knees bent and hamstring curls, for examples, are a good choice. Other exercises that target these muscles include:
Move 1: Lying Leg-Hip Raise
This compound movement can help stretch and strengthen the rectus abdominis and other muscles. It can be done with or without weights.
- Lie on your back on an exercise bench (or the floor) with your legs extended in front of you.
- Place a light dumbbell between your ankles (optional).
- Bring your knees to your chest by flexing the hips and core muscles. Place your hands on the edges of the bench for support if necessary.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
Move 2: Bird Dog
The bird dog is often used in yoga classes and rehab settings. It's a simple yet effective movement for the erector spinae, but it also works your glutes, traps, hamstrings and core muscles.
This is one of Stuart McGill's Big Three Back Exercises, so it can be safely performed by those with back pain. Stuart McGill is a professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo and the author of several books addressing common disorders of the lower back and recovery techniques. Here's how to safely perform this movement:
- Get down on all fours with your legs slightly apart.
- Raise one arm in front of you while lifting the opposite leg. Keep your arm and leg straight.
- Maintain a neutral spine and avoid rounding your back.
- Hold the contraction for a few seconds, return to the starting position and repeat.
- Do the same with your other arm and leg.
Move 3: Stability Ball Leg Curls
- Lie on your back with your arms out to the sides.
- Place your ankles on a stability ball. Keep your back and hips straight and your legs extended.
- Start rolling your feet over the ball without arching your back or swinging your hips. Squeeze your glutes and roll your heels over the ball to bring it below your hips.
- Return to the initial position and repeat.
The National Athletic Trainers' Association also recommends joint manipulation, trunk stabilization, stretching and sacral mobilization exercises for SI joint dysfunction. Again, it's important to discuss your options with a physiotherapist. These methods may or may not be suitable for your condition.
Are Sacrum Exercises Necessary?
This bony structure is also prone to stress fractures, which may result from repetitive movements or weakened bones. Young athletes, especially those who engage in long-distance running, gymnastics or weight lifting, as well as people with osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions, are more likely to develop sacral stress fractures. Symptoms include groin pain, lower back pain and swelling, tenderness and pain that may worsen during exercise, just to name a few.
A sacral stress fracture takes several weeks to heal, according to Winchester Hospital. Treatment may consist of pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs and exercises that help strengthen the sacrum and increase your range of motion. In some cases, doctors may recommend wearing a corset or brace.
The sacroiliac joints are vulnerable to injuries too. Bad lifting form, poor posture, pregnancy and degenerative diseases may stretch or torn the tissues surrounding these joints, causing pain and limited mobility. Therapeutic exercises are often an integral part of the treatment plan.
- Winchester Hospital: "Sacral Stress Fracture"
- Saint Luke’s Health System: "Understanding Sacroiliac Strain"
- National Athletic Trainers' Association: "Treatment of Sacroiliac Treatment of Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction Joint Dysfunction"
- ExRx.net: "Weighted Lying Leg-Hip Raise"
- ExRx.net: "Bird Dog"
- ExRx.net: "Leg Curl (on Stability Ball)"
- University of Waterloo: "Stuart M. McGill, C.M."