Ease Sacroiliac Joint Pain With Our Top 6 Menopause-Friendly Exercises
Updated March 23, 2023.
Menopause is the inevitable physiologic consequence of the ageing process for women. At some point, your menstrual cycle ceases, marking the end of an era of fertility. Usually, the menstrual period must have stopped for at least twelve months before you can reach a definitive diagnosis.
While the age of onset varies in most women and across races, the symptoms of menopause are similar, usually consisting of hot flashes and mood disorders. Additionally, 40% of women in a recent study reported joint pain as a symptom of menopause (1). This is not surprising since menopause is characterised by decreased oestrogen levels which leads to less joint protection and, eventually, joint pain and stiffness.
Of the joint pain commonly reported, sacroiliac joint pain is perhaps the most common. It occurs when the sacroiliac joint (located where the pelvis connects with your spine at the lower back) becomes inflamed. It can cause pain in the lower back and buttocks and may radiate to the legs. Sacroiliac joint pain can be functionally limiting, hence the need to equip yourself with enough easy-to-do exercises that you can perform at home to relieve some pain, and here are our top 5.
» Read more: Menopause Joint Pain Natural Remedies
1. Lower Trunk Rotation
Lower trunk rotation improves flexibility in the hips and lower back, relieving pressure and pain in the sacroiliac joints.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent slightly and your feet flat on the floor
- Keeping your knees together, gently rotate them to one side as much as you can without experiencing pain
- Keep both shoulders and back flat on the ground
- Hold this position for 5-10 seconds
- Repeat on the alternate side
- Repeat up to 10 times on each side
2. Knee-to-Chest Stretch
As a physiotherapist, the knee-to-chest stretch is a favourite of mine due to its simplicity and effectiveness. You can perform it with either one or both legs, following the descriptions below.
Single Knee-To-Chest Stretch
- Start with your legs fully extended or one leg bent at the knee with the foot flat on the ground (depending on the severity of the back pain)
- Proceed to draw one of your knees towards the chest while clasping your hands on your leg
- Hold the position for 10 seconds before releasing the leg and repeating it on the alternate limb
- Repeat the entire cycle ten times
Double Knee-To-Chest Stretch
- While lying on your back, pull both knees to your chest
- Hold the position for 5-10 seconds
- Slowly lower the legs and repeat up to ten times
3. Cobra Pose
Sometimes, sacroiliac joint pain is due to hypermobile joints in menopausal women. In such a case, strengthening exercises help improve stability and reduce pain. Yoga poses are particularly useful in this regard, provided care is taken not to overdo them, and the cobra pose readily comes to mind.
- Lie flat on your stomach with your palms flat on the floor beside your chest
- Keep your hands beneath your shoulders
- Extend the arms slowly until your upper body is off the ground
- Ensure you do not raise the pelvis or legs with the upper body
- Keep the lower back and buttocks relaxed
- Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds
- Slowly return to the starting position on the floor
- Repeat as many times as needed
Walking is easier on the sacroiliac joint than running or jogging and can be easily incorporated into your schedule. For example, you can stop one block from your destination and walk the rest of the way, walk to lunch, or simply take a light 20-minute walk around your neighbourhood at the end of your day.
For all its simplicity, walking offers significant benefits when it comes to easing different kinds of joint and back pain. Plan to take a walk for about 20-30 minutes. Ensure you maintain a slow pace and use comfortable, low-heeled footwear that properly support your foot arches and keep your feet neutrally aligned.
Stop if you notice any pain. If you are pain-free, you can increase the pace or the time you spend walking.
Bridging focuses on strengthening the gluteal muscles, helping to stabilize the pelvis and relieve sacroiliac joint pain.
- Begin by lying on your back with your hands by your side and your palms flat on the floor
- Bend your knees
- Squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips you form a straight line from shoulder to knee
- Hold the position for 5 seconds using the muscles of the lower abdomen, lower back, and hips
- Slowly lower your body
- Repeat the stretch 8 to 10 times, provided there is no pain
- If you have the strength and don't experience any pain, you can increase the intensity by only bending one knee at the start
6. Bird Dog Pose
The bird dog pose is an advanced yoga move that strengthens the lower back and core abdominal muscles supporting the pelvis.
- Get on all fours
- Keep your shoulders square and your face looking towards the ground in order to ensure that your spine and neck are in a neutral position
- Simultaneously extend a leg backwards and an alternate arm forward
- For example, extend your right leg while reaching forward with your left arm
- Avoid arching the back to compensate for the movement
- Hold the position for 5 seconds before lowering your leg and arm
- Alternate the limbs and continue for 6-10 reps on each side
- If the exercise is too difficult or elicits pain, modify the activity by only extending your legs
You Can Be Pain Free
You don’t have to live with sacroiliac joint pain just because menopause has set in, and there things you can do to relieve this pain without pumping yourself full of pharmaceutical drugs. By performing these exercises, you not only achieve pain relief but also strengthen and stretch muscles that can improve your posture and keep you free of joint pain.