Do You Have SI Joint Pain?
Your sacroiliac (SI) joints are the large synovial joints in the pelvis near the base of the spine that connect the sacrum and ilium, linking your pelvis and lower spine. They’re weight bearing joints, and act as shock absorbers for the spine. They are an essential component for the transfer of weight and energies between your upper body and legs.
The SI joints are related to many large and small muscles, all of which can be affected when the joints become loose and begin to move abnormally. The result can be inflammation of the connective synovial tissue, which frequently leads to pain radiating to your hips, buttocks, and all the way down the back of your thighs, ultimately leading to disability.
SI joint pain can be an early symptom of ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory form of arthritis that occurs in the spine.
Abnormal movement can result in the inflammation of the synovial tissue connecting the ligament and joint, which will result in the patient feeling pain in the surrounding nerves. The pain will frequently lead to leg pain that radiates through the hips, buttocks, and all the way down the back of the thighs or even feet, possibly leading to disability.
This can result in the inflammation of the connective tissue, ligament, and joint. This inflammation can cause irritation to the surrounding nerves and create leg pain that feels like sciatica.
If you’re suffering from chronic SI joint pain, you’re not alone. An estimated 20 to 30% of the American public suffers from chronic spine related pain every day, meaning that millions of Americans are potentially suffering from sacroiliac joint issues. Studies show 23% of patients with back pain are experiencing pain related to SI joint, if a patient had a previous spine surgery this rate may go up to 43%.
What Causes SI Joint Pain?
SI joint pain and related issues can be caused by several circumstances, including a traumatic event such as a car accident, fall, high impact or injury-causing mishap that results in a disruption in the ligaments and the tissues that support and make up the SI joints. Other possible causes include:
- Wear and tear degeneration that can come with aging (also known as osteoarthritis)
- Ankylosing spondylitis, a progressive type of arthritis caused by inflammation that affects the spine and hips
- Other inflammatory conditions
- Pregnancy, either before or after the birthing process, due physiological changes in the body
- SI joint pain can result from degenerative scoliosis
- Scoliosis and other spinal pathologies can lead to SIJ disease and pain.
What Does SI Joint Pain Feel Like?
As mentioned, sacroiliitis can result in a dull ache, or sharp, stabbing pain localized to one side of your back, groin, pelvis or tailbone, that can radiate down your thighs. You may find that pain is exacerbated by standing and walking but is alleviated when you sit or lie down. It is intensified with certain activities, especially those that include a twisting motion.
SI Joint Pain can also manifest as:
- Pain in the buttocks
- Sciatic pain in the leg that is characterized by a cramping or burning pain that travels down your leg(s), as well as groin and/or hip pain
- Prickling or tingling sensations in the mentioned anatomical areas
- Insomnia and depression, if the pain and discomfort are serious enough
- Worsening symptoms resulting from sustained or prolonged standing, sitting or lying down, or movement such as rising from a sitting position, bending, twisting or turning in bed
- Symptoms can also be triggered by activities such as stair-climbing or climbing inclines
At Inspired Spine, our surgeons recognize that symptoms of SI joint dysfunction, varying from mild inflammation to instability of the joints, can mimic other causes of lower left back pain, lower right back pain, and middle back pain such as a herniated disc or sciatica.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, an accurate diagnosis is the key to determining the best course of treatment. Schedule a Free Consultation with an Inspired Spine surgeon today.
Diagnosing SI Joint Pain
Studies have shown that up to 23% of all chronic lower back pain is caused by sacroiliac joint dysfunction, but SI Joint problems can often be overlooked during a diagnosis if testing is not included in the original screening. Testing for SI Joint dysfunction is always included in Inspired Spine’s initial protocol for pain screening.
Conversely, symptoms normally associated with sciatic nerve pain can be caused instead by an underlying Sacroiliac Instability issue. And, if the SI joint becomes inflamed, it can cause irritation in the portion of the sciatic nerve that runs directly in front of the joint. The key to determining the best course of treatment is an accurate diagnosis. Investigation of the Sacroiliac joint is always included in our diagnostic, including provocation of the joint, where the surgeon puts pressure on the joint using various maneuvers to see if the joint is inflamed. However, the most important part of diagnostic is the Diagnostic sacroiliac injections.
Non-Surgical SI Joint Pain Treatments
Most patients will not need surgery to correct their SI joint pain. There are a number of non-surgical, conservative treatment alternatives. Inspired Spine always researches and recommends the simplest, least-invasive approach that is appropriate to your specific condition.
Conservative, non-surgical treatment for back and SI joint pain relief can include:
- Change in daily activities to reduce stress on disease structure
- Physical therapy to strengthen the supporting muscle group and bring balance to the spine and SI joint- including lower back exercises aimed at strengthening the structures and tissues around the SI joints. In special situations, bracing to reduce stress on the diseased structure
- Rest, ice/cold packs or heat applied to the affected area(s)
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin can reduce inflammation leading to less pain. They do not however fully treat the root problem
- Physiotherapy. A good physiotherapist can often help significantly by prescribing manipulative or manual therapy that improve muscle function in the area, help loosen any stiff joints, and improve mobility, including lower back exercises aimed at strengthening the support structures and tissues around the SI joints.
- Steroid and anti-inflammatory may be injected into the joints to help relieve symptoms and reduce inflammation (like NSAIDs but a lot more powerful). Additionally, local anesthetics injected right into the joints can be used to immediately dull the pain by stopping nerves from firing.
- Neuroablation is a longer-term, radio frequency procedure, usually performed out-patient, to provide back pain relief.
When non-surgical treatments prove ineffective, the surgeons at Inspired Spine may suggest minimally invasive SI Joint Fusion.
Get Information About SI Joint Pain Treatments and Surgery at Inspired Spine
Inspired Spine always researches and recommends the simplest, least-invasive approach that is appropriate to your specific condition.
All major insurance plans are accepted, including Medicare.