Struggling with sacroiliac joint pain? These 3 PT techniques may bring you relief

Globally, one of the most common types of disability involves lower back pain, and sacroiliac joint issues can affect up to 25% of people who deal with lower back pain issues. This can cause difficulty engaging in the simplest of daily tasks such as standing, sitting or even sleeping.

You shouldn’t have to struggle through ordinary activities in pain. Sacroiliac joint pain is a serious condition, and if you’re one of the people who has to deal with it, you deserve relief from your discomfort.

What is sacroiliac joint pain?

The sacroiliac joints are the places where the lower end of the spine connects to the pelvis. You have two sacroiliac joints — one on either side of your body — and they’re held in place with ligaments. When these joints get injured, inflamed or infected, it can cause sacroiliitis. Common symptoms of sacroiliitis include pain in the lower back and buttocks, or pain that worsens if you:

  • Sleep, sit or stand for a long time.
  • Put more weight on one leg than the other.
  • Climb stairs.
  • Run.
  • Take large steps when moving forward.

Because the symptoms of sacroiliac joint pain can be similar to symptoms of other conditions, it may be difficult to diagnose. If you also feel numbness and tingling along with pain, your doctor may consider other diagnoses. 

Since sacroiliac joint pain is triggered with most daily movements, it can be debilitating to deal with. There isn’t always a clear trigger for the onset of sacroiliitis, either, though common causes can include:

  • Arthritis.
  • Traumatic injury.
  • Pregnancy and postpartum issues.
  • Systemic inflammatory conditions.
  • Infection.
  • Spinal scoliosis.
  • Leg length discrepancy.
  • Previous lumbar spine fusion.

Whether or not one of these conditions triggered your sacroiliac joint pain, it’s important to address your discomfort. So, let’s take a look at how physical therapy can help.

How physical therapy can offer relief for sacroiliac joint pain

One of the best ways to treat sacroiliac joint pain is through physical therapy. It’s a noninvasive, gentle way to not only help your body stretch, but also to strengthen and relieve pain in your sacroiliac joints. Here are some common PT treatments that your physical therapist may use to address your sacroiliac joint pain:

  • Manual therapyManual therapy is a hands-on method of treatment that can help your lower back and sacroiliac joints function better. In manual therapy, your physical therapist will use just their hands to move and stretch the joints, muscles and tendons in and around your sacroiliac joints. The goal of this type of physical therapy is to improve range of motion and decrease pain in and around the injured area. Manual therapy can also increase circulation and trigger natural healing processes in the injured tissue. Types of manual therapy include soft tissue mobilization, strain-counterstrain therapy, muscle energy techniques, and high velocity, low amplitude thrusting.
  • Joint mobilization — In joint mobilization, the affected sacroiliac joint is moved in a way that you would not be able to do on your own. The goal is to provide the right amplitude, velocity and direction of force for your physical therapist to move the restricted joint and gently restore normal range of motion. Depending on your level of pain and treatment goals, your physical therapist will determine the speed and type of joint mobilization your injury requires. They’ll aim to reduce your pain levels, increase your range of motion, and improve the quality of the joint’s movement itself.
  • Electrical stimulation — With electrical stimulation, self-adhesive electrodes are placed around the target treatment area on the body. These electrodes use electricity to stimulate the muscles and nerves to block pain signals from the sacroiliac joint to the brain. This can provide rapid pain relief and stimulate healing, which may assist in a faster recovery. There are several electrical stimulation modes that can be used, including transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), interferential, pre-modulated, Russian, and symmetrical or asymmetrical bi-phasic.


Depending on your level of discomfort and what’s causing your sacroiliac joint pain, your treatment plan may include different methods than the ones described above. Your physical therapist will develop a specific treatment plan to fit your needs and recovery goals.

Do-it-yourself treatments for sacroiliac joint pain relief


While physical therapy can be your best resource for sacroiliac joint pain relief, there are some things you can do at home between appointments to further heal and strengthen your body. Remember that if any of these exercises cause you pain or make your discomfort worse, stop doing them and contact your doctor or physical therapist. Let’s take a look at some exercises that can help you relieve your sacroiliac joint pain:

  • Walking — Strolling at a gentle pace can help relieve your sacroiliac joint and lower back pain. Wear a pair of comfortable shoes with good support and start slowly. It’s important to not overexert yourself and irritate your injury, so start with an easy pace and limit yourself to no more than 20 minutes. If you can do that without pain, you may gradually increase the length and speed of your walks.
  • Biking — Getting on a bike for a short ride can be a great exercise for sacroiliac joint pain. It’s a way to increase blood flow without putting too much pressure on your sacroiliac joint. Start slow and easy, though. Going too hard or for too long can set you back rather than help you heal.
  • Stretching — Mild exercises such as hamstring stretches, hip adductor stretches and back bridge stretches can help ease tension and relieve pain in your sacroiliac joint. Don’t force or push yourself to move further than you comfortably can. Talk to your physical therapist about the proper exercises to do at home.
  • Yoga — Many yoga stretches can offer pain relief and help strengthen the muscles in and around the sacroiliac joint. It’s important to do these exercises correctly and not overexert yourself, or you could do more damage than good. Talk to your physical therapist about the proper exercises to do at home.


At-home exercise is a great way to promote healing and pain relief in your sacroiliac joint, but sometimes even mild exercise feels like too much. Here are a couple of things you can do that don’t require movement or exertion:

  • Rest — The most important thing you can do is give your body time and space to heal. Rest is vital to help make that happen. First, because your body heals best when it’s resting. Second, because overexertion or forcing yourself to exercise too hard and long can actually hinder your progress.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers — Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can help temporarily relieve your sacroiliac joint pain. Be sure to follow the directions on the bottle for dosage and talk to your doctor if they aren’t working for you.
  • Hot and cold therapy — Both ice and heat can bring relief for your sacroiliac joint pain. Try them out separately or alternate to see what gives you the best results.

These remedies will likely not offer permanent relief for your symptoms of sacroiliac joint pain. However, they can help temporarily relieve pain and rest your muscles and joints between physical therapy sessions.


Sleeping positions for sacroiliac joint pain relief


Rest is vital to help you restore your body and give it the best chance of healing. But if you’re dealing with sacroiliac pain, it may be difficult to find a comfortable position. Here are a few ways to get comfortable in bed and optimize your rest time:


  • Lie on your more comfortable side.
  • Keep one of your legs bent while sleeping.
  • Place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips, pelvis and spine aligned.
  • Relax the painful side backward.
  • Use a contoured pillow under your head and a pillow under your arm to align your spine at night.


While these tips may not fully alleviate your sacroiliac joint pain, they can help you get a better night’s rest. The better you sleep, the better your body will feel in the morning.


Sacroiliac joint pain can be difficult and frustrating to deal with, but there are answers. Panther Physical Therapy offers many ways to address your pain and start working toward healing. Call us or request an appointment today to discover how our licensed physical therapists can help you regain your mobility and your life.