For some reason, my post on my issues with the sacroiliac joint has been getting a ton of views recently.
I’m not sure what happened– whether Google decided to rank my blog more prominently in its search results, or if more people are aware of the sacroiliac joint in general, and looking to find answers. (Hopefully both!).
But a lot has changed for me since I wrote that post, and to be honest I cringe a little bit when I see someone’s read it. I wrote it from a place of doubt, when I was feeling really lost and wasn’t even sure I had identified the correct problem.
I’ve learned a lot since then. I no longer doubt myself, or doubt that I have issues with this joint. In fact, I’m starting to realize that sacroiliac joint dysfunction is actually way more common than it had seemed. It also seems to be a pretty common experience for people with this issue to have trouble finding treatment, and to feel misunderstood.
With all that in mind, I wanted to provide a little bit of the perspective I have now, because luckily, I am no longer coming from that place of doubt.
First, a little background info:
I developed my sacroiliac joint problems in the fall of 2011. I would be walking along, until all of a sudden one of my legs would get “stuck.” I wouldn’t be able to lift that leg more than an inch or two off the ground.
The first time it happened, I went and saw a chiropractor who explained that it was caused by my sacroiliac joint getting “jammed.” He adjusted that joint, and like magic the problem was gone: I could lift my leg and walk normally again.
But the same thing happened again and again. I would go to the chiropractor, and feel better, but inevitably my leg would get “stuck” again the next day. And nothing I could do would fix the problem, or allow me to lift that leg more than a few inches off the ground. So back to the chiropractor I would hobble again.
It was confusing, and infuriating. I’d never heard of anything like this happening to anyone before. No one I talked to about it had ever heard of anything like it before, either.
And me, with my long history of chronic pain and unexplained physical symptoms that often just turned out to be my nervous system freaking out and being overprotective… it was hard not to wonder if this was just more of the same.
After all, this situation had a lot of parallels to problems I’d had in the past. The times I was convinced I had injured part of my body, only to finally realize months later the pain was caused by my nervous system freaking out over nothing. Was my SI joint really becoming stuck? Or was my nervous system just “amplifying” the pain, and making a small problem feel worse than it was?
It didn’t help that none of the physical therapists I saw really seemed to know what I was talking about. I would tell them about my leg getting stuck, and they would give me blank stares. “I didn’t learn about that in school,” they would say. “The sacroiliac joint doesn’t really move.”
Doctors were not really much help either. I saw two physiatrists and one orthopedist. The physiatrists didn’t tell me that I didn’t have a problem– they just said it was out of the scope of their practice.
The orthopedist talked about doing some cortisone injections, but he didn’t seem to have any idea what I was talking about when I talked about my hip “locking.” I passed on the injections, since it didn’t seem to make sense to receive a treatment from someone who didn’t seem to understand the problem.
So I just kept going to the chiropractor and getting adjustments, but ultimately, these adjustments were no more than a temporary fix.
A big part of the problem was that none of the chiropractors I saw seemed to be very interested in actually talking to me about what the problem was. They all seemed to think that the long-term treatment was someone else’s problem– that I could just walk into any physical therapy clinic, do whatever exercises they gave me, and everything would work out.
There was nothing I could say, it seemed, that would make them understand. How was I supposed to get a physical therapist to give me exercises for the sacroiliac joint, when none of the PT’s I saw even thought that could be my problem?
A lesson I’ve been forced to learn, over and over again, in different contexts, is this:
Don’t stop. Keep looking. Things aren’t always what they seem.
This has happened to me at so many different points in my life, where I felt stuck, miserable, and afraid my life would never get better.
It happened in high school, when I was caught in a vicious cycle of depression and an eating disorder. It happened in my early 20’s, when I lived with unexplained pain throughout my entire body for five years. And it was the same, with this problem:
Don’t stop. Keep going. You never know when things could change. The answer could be just around the corner.
Every few months, I’d scour the Internet for anything I could find on the “sacroiliac joint.” In 2011, there really were very few results (at least, very few that I could understand). I think the first time I looked, the results were so pathetic and sparse that it was another six months before I looked again.
But as time went on, I started to find more and more resources.
Part of it, I think, is that maybe people are starting to become more of the sacroiliac joint. And as awareness builds, more of that knowledge is finding its way onto the Internet.
Another part of it is that over time, my searching became more effective. After all, at the same time all this was going on, I was also taking my prerequisites for physical therapy school, and beginning to understand more and more of those anatomical terms that had once been gibberish to me.
Two years into my problem, I stumbled across the website for a physical therapy practice near me. One of the physical therapists actually listed the sacroiliac joint as one of her interests, so of course I made an appointment immediately.
That was the point at which things began to change for me. Finally, I found someone who was willing to talk to me about what the problem was, and was able to think flexibly enough to give me exercises that would help me, but not make me worse.
She also taught me a way to use a foam roller to give my SI joints a self-adjustment. It obviously wasn’t quite as good as going to a chiropractor, but it gave me the freedom to “unlock” my legs by myself, which obviously changed everything for me. I no longer had to count down the minutes between chiropractor visits; no longer had to live in fear of my hips locking up on a Friday night and having to wait all weekend for an adjustment to free them up again.
This is getting long, so it will be continued in Part 2!