The SI Joint: A Frequent Problem For Runners

runner si joint painFrequently, a new patient will enter our office complaining of “back pain” while pointing to their sacroiliac joint. When I ask them about their exercise routine and they tell me they’re a runner, I know where this conversation is headed.

Runners experiencing ongoing back pain that is located to one side and just below their belt level are usually dealing with sacroiliac (SI) joint pain.

These two joints (one on each side) are in heavy use when you run. Ideally, they glide back and forth during a normal stride. If the joint becomes stuck, or just isn’t moving like it’s supposed to, you’ll tend to “swing” that side of your pelvis in order to run.

This “swing” can lead to back pain and even hip, knee, or ankle pain on the side of the malfunctioning joint.

When I run a race and have an opportunity to observe the stride of hundreds of runners, I can clearly spot those that have SI joint problems. The movement of the pelvis isn’t symmetrical and you can see the “swing” in action.

If you suspect that you have an SI joint problem, there are a few things you can try to get some relief.

• Stretch your hip rotators.
These are a fan of muscles underneath your glutes. A simple stretch is to lay on your back and pull one knee up to your chest and then slowly across your body. It will feel like you’re stretching your glute, but it’s actually a deeper stretch than that.

• Foam rolling. While many runners utilize the foam roller on their hamstrings or quads, they completely ignore their hip rotators and their SI joints. Move that foam roller a little higher and get the problem areas. Cross one foot over the opposite knee to really zero in on the hip rotators during your foam rolling time.

• Get adjusted. Chiropractors get stuck joints moving again. Adjusting the SI joints is a regular occurrence in our office and needed most often by runners and new moms. If you just can’t seem to get things moving with stretches and foam rolling, a couple of adjustments will usually make the difference.

Managing the right movement of your SI joints can make all the difference in a variety of exercises. Those with this problem have difficulty doing squats, lunges, and just lifting up their leg to tie their shoes.