In Part 1 of this series, I explained how the learning the “muscle energy technique” from my physical therapist Paula marked a turning point for me in my SI joint journey.
Above, I’m including a Youtube video of a physical therapist demonstrating this technique. (I actually use a few different variations on the moves she does, but the principles behind it are exactly the same).
By using this approach regularly, I’ve not only been able to keep my SI joints better aligned, I’ve also developed more of an understanding of how the pain and sensations I feel correspond to the anatomical reality of what’s actually happening down there.
For me, this whole process has had to be very intellectual. The movement patterns of the sacroiliac joints are some of the most complex in the body. It wasn’t a matter of simply doing my exercises and getting stronger, because this joint is like a puzzle.
The SI joint reminds me of those old metal “tavern puzzles” they made in the Colonial days (http://www.tavernpuzzle.com/). I don’t know if most of you would have ever seen one—I grew up in a town with a lot of Revolutionary War history, so I feel like I grew up playing with these things.
They are impossible to figure out by just looking—they’re too complex. Instead you have to just start moving the different parts around, hoping the solution somehow becomes clear as you go along. Half of the time, you move a piece and realize it actually just made things worse.
That’s been my experience with the SI joint. It’s been so unpredictable, the things that will cause my SI’s to “slip” and lock. Walking on a flat, well-maintained trail at my favorite conservation land? No big deal. Going to a party and sitting on someone’s dilapidated old couch? I sink in instantly, and my hips are locked again.
It doesn’t help that everyone’s SI joints are different. Obviously we all have the same bones down there, but the shape of these bones and the way they fit together can vary widely from person to person.
For this reason, things that can work well for one person might not work at all for another. I’ve tried techniques and exercises that other people have sworn by, and found they made me worse.
Only by learning, and developing a sense for exactly which types of motions and textures are going to create instability in my pelvis, have I been able to make sense of my own SI joints at all.
What about mind over matter? a lot of people have asked me. Why can’t you just push through it, even if it hurts?
What I wish they could see is that it has been mind over matter, just not in the way they think.
There’s no pushing through an SI joint that has locked. Anyone who’s experienced this will know what I mean. It makes about as much sense as trying to use brute strength to unlock one of those tavern puzzles.
But you can use your mind to learn about the anatomy of the joint, and solve the puzzle that way. Technically it’s still mind over matter, but in this variation it’s about being open, receptive, and mindful, rather than trying to harness sheer force of will.
To be continued in Part 3!