More often than not, 98% of low back pain arises with a concomitant sacro-iliac joint instability. Bottom line - this is an area that we extensively use through our sitting, standing and walking patterns every day. Quite literally, I'm often telling my patients to elevate their legs and I even offer to sign a written note for the husbands/wives that need their spouses to understand the clinical significance of putting their feet up ;)
Common Signs & Symptoms - Localized stiffness or pain to the lower back and upper gluteal muscle
- Inability to bend, lift or twist
- Shooting pain to the hip and/or lower leg
- Inflammation in and around the sacrum and lower spine
Anatomy of The Sacro-Iliac Joint
The spine attaches to the pelvis via the sacrum. The sacrum is connected with fibro-cartilaginous ligaments and a series of muscles to either side of the pelvic frame. This joint is known as the sacro-iliac, or SI, joint.
Surrounding the pelvis are sequence of muscles that function to stabilize and create movement around the pelvis between the spine, lower and upper limbs.
Your Hip Bone's Connected To Your...(sing the tune!) The health of the abdominal wall and pelvic floor muscles are essential in stabilizing the pelvis together with the sacrum of the spine. If we are not able to activate the pelvic floor effectively, due to history of low back pain, surgery, parasite infections and inflammation of the gut especially of the kidney, bladder and colon, this will increase our risk of pelvic and low back pain.
As we walk the legs are swinging and as the foot is about to strike the ground the inner unit (made up of the transversus abdominis, pelvic floor, diaphragm and deep spinal muscles) engage to essentially squeeze the two sides of the pelvis together. Stability to the SI joint is then established on the stance side and only 6-pounds of pressure is required to provide this stability (Andre Vleeming).
This is also known as the "nutcracker effect". Each side of the pelvis behave as jaws and the sacrum is the nut. The hinge of the nutcracker would then be the ligaments of the SI joint.
If the inner unit muscles are unable to engage correctly, this will lead to overuse of the SI ligaments. These are much smaller than the large muscles that should be engaging to support the SI and lower back.
Over time, this can lead to the above signs and symptoms to indicate an imbalance that needs to be addressed.
I highly recommend to review some previous articles, listed below, to review my recommended massage, stretch and strengthening exercises that relate to the SI joint.
Restoring Balance in 5-Steps
Move - increase your body temperature and blood flow to all your muscles.
Massage - using a partner, lacrosse ball or foam roller to agitate the muscles.
MOBILIZE - move the joints in their full range of motion.
Stretch - focus on lengthening the short-tight (hypertonic) muscles.
Strengthen - focus on strengthening the (hypotonic) long-weak muscles.
This week I shared one of the simplest and fastest ways to release your SI joint and liberate your lower back at the same time.
My prescription is to perform this mobilization often to help pay down your postural debt due to overuse of some muscles and inactivation of others. Remember intensity is the shortcut to results. In this case, the intensity comes from the frequency of repetitions.
I suggest the following:
MAJOR SYMPTOMS - Mobilize 3-5 reps per leg for 3-5 sets, 3 times a day.
MINOR SYMPTOMS - Mobilize 3-5 reps per leg for 3-5 sets, 1-2 times a day.
NO SYMPTOMS - Mobilize 3-5 reps per leg for 3-5 sets, 3 times a week.
Yours in muscle health,
Jason Barlow, RMT
P: 403 589 4645
P.S. Get instant access to your FREE eBook The 15-Step Playbook for Pain Relief!