Pilates and SI Joint Issues

Pilates is an ideal solution to help rehabilitate the problematic sacroiliac (SIJ) joint.

The SIJ is the joint that connects the sacrum with the left and right iliac bones.

Although still up for debate, it is believed that there is a small amount of movement evident at the SIJ.  The main functions of this joint are to help with shock absorption, help transmit forces between the upper and lower body and help coordinate movement between the spine, the pelvis and the hip.

Typical dysfunction is noted as having either too much motion (hypermobile) or too little motion (hypomobile).  Signs and symptoms of sacroiliac dysfunction are more commonly found unilaterally.  A dull aching feeling in the low back or at the area where the PSIS’s live (posterior superior iliac spine) is most common but the SIJ is also able to refer down through the buttocks or into the groin.

Most often, clients tend to report to their Pilates teachers that they have been told they have an unstable SIJ.  Considering one of the main focuses of practicing Pilates is increasing the tension and therefore support around the central region, an unstable SIJ may respond very well to Pilates rehabilitation.

The close packed position of a joint is where the bones have the most contact with each other making it the most stable position for the joint.  The close packed position for the SIJ is when either the ilia are posteriorly rotated (like a flatter back) or the sacrum is nutated (the top of the sacrum is pushed forward).  This will be the better position to actively work an unstable SIJ when first beginning exercise.

Structures and principles to consider when designing exercise for an unstable SIJ:

Muscles that help support the SIJ and may need some attention are the inner unit and the gluteus maximus muscles.  Teaching proper weight bearing through the feet, proper activation of the psoas, less activation of the rectus femoris, and helping someone be able to differentiate the movement between their pelvis, lumbar spine and hip are further points to consider.

Listed below are some guidelines to use when first working with someone who has an unstable SIJ:

Begin with the body in a supported position (supine, prone or in side lying)

Progress to bilateral standing or on knees

Use a split stance with the unstable SIJ as the front leg (this puts the unstable side in a close packed position)

Add in upper extremity loading

Further progress to unilateral work



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