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Sacroiliac joint problems are common but misunderstood


Lower back pain afflicts one in ten people at some point in their life. One of the most overlooked causes of back pain is sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The right diagnosis and treatment are crucial for alleviating this chronic pain condition and allowing sufferers to live a full life.

What is sacroiliac joint dysfunction?

If you’ve looked at an x-ray or a spine model, you’ll recognize the sacrum as the triangle-shaped bone at the base of the spine and above the tailbone. Sacroiliac – or SI – joints connect it on either side to the iliac bones in the hip joints. The sacroiliac joint is what transmits the forces of the upper body to the pelvis and the legs.

Part of the reason sacroiliac joint dysfunction is an overlooked cause of lower back pain is its similarity to herniated discs. Most common in young and middle-aged women, SI joint problems may be the result of a misalignment of the joint, and either too much or too little movement: Too much movement can result from pregnancy or spinal fusions of adjoining vertebrae. This can create loose ligaments. Too little movement can result from arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases.

No matter the cause, the result is a painful inflammation known as sacroiliitis.

sciatic nerve

sciatic nerve

Symptoms include:

  • Pain the lower back, groin, pelvis or buttocks
  • Pain along the sciatic nerve in one or both legs (see image, right), but rarely radiating all the way to the feet
  • Stiffness or numbness in the pelvis area
  • Pain when standing up from a sitting position

Treatments for SI joint pain

Minimally invasive, nonsurgical treatments can offer significant relief for sacroiliitis, one of the most overlooked causes of back pain. Many physicians prescribe physical therapy and specific exercises first. Chiropractic manipulation of the joint can provide temporary relief. If stability is an issue, a special pelvic belt can be worn. Medications, such as acetaminophen, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants provide relief in some cases, but this is not recommended.

For longer term relief, sacroiliac joint injections are among the most helpful treatments. First, they can be used to diagnose the condition. This is important because the symptoms of SI joint disease can mimic other conditions. As a treatment, SI joint injections deliver medication for pain and inflammation directly into the joint. This is an advantage over oral medications because it eliminates the side effects of systemic medicines.

SI joint fusions for chronic lower back pain

Fusions are used to stabilize vertebrae and relieve pain. Unlike open-back surgery that takes weeks or months of recuperation, minimally invasive SI joint fusions are done through a magic marker-sized tube. Through the tube, tiny instruments spread muscle instead of cutting and tearing, leading to a fast recovery from SI joint dysfunction, one of the most overlooked causes of lower back pain.

To learn more about SI joint treatment options, call Physician Partners of America at 844-542-5724 or go to our website and chat with us online.