The sacroiliac (SI) joint serves a key function in connecting the base of the spine to the pelvis. Named because it connects the base of the spine, or sacrum, to the broad upper bones in the upper pelvis, or ilium, the SI joint withstands a tremendous amount of stress as we go through our daily movements. Because of this, a large number of people experience SI joint pain on a regular basis.
If you’re looking for SI pain relief, the good news is there are a large variety of effective treatment options. By learning more about this condition and the therapies that offer relief, we hope you can take a proactive role in your treatment to achieve the quality of life you deserve. We welcome you to get in touch with our dedicated team at any time with questions as you read over the following information. The USA Spine Care team is here to help.
SI joint pain causes and symptoms
SI joint pain is caused by two main factors — the natural aging process and strenuous activity. The SI joint plays an essential role in transferring energy between the upper and lower body to enable movement. High stress activities such as running and lifting in particular can put excess strain on the joint, causing pain and dysfunction that requires rest to heal.
The SI joint is also subjected to the degeneration that affects other joints and soft tissue throughout the body. As we all age, our bodies lose water content, making connective tissue and protective cartilage more brittle and stiff. This leads to deterioration and increased friction between the bones that causes inflammation and resulting symptoms of aches, pain and stiffness.
The most commonly reported symptoms for people who develop SI joint pain include:
- A sharp pain in the pelvis and hips
- Shooting pains into the hips and legs
- Tingling and numbness in the extremities
- Stiffness and popping sensations in the lower back and pelvis
- Back ache in some patients
It is important to receive a thorough diagnosis for any of these symptoms, as SI joint pain is often misdiagnosed as a lumbar (lower) spine condition due to the overlap in symptoms. In addition to reviewing medical history, discussing symptoms and ordering diagnostic imagery, physicians can perform specialized movement tests to diagnose SI joint pain.
Basic SI pain relief options
Whether caused by aging or injury, doctors will typically treat SI joint pain with an initial course of conservative options. These are designed to relieve symptoms and improve function while the overall progress of the condition is monitored. Common options include:
- Over-the-counter medication
- Alternating hot and cold compression
- Activity modification
Advanced conservative therapies include SI joint injection and physical therapy
If SI joint pain is more severe and/or persists for weeks or longer, options such as physical therapy and SI joint injections may be attempted. Physical therapy helps to strengthen key supporting muscles and increase range of motion through techniques such as therapeutic exercise and manual therapy.
SI joint injections of a corticosteroid and pain-relieving agent directly into the painful area can help relieve pain and inflammation for an intermediate period to allow patients to engage in normal activities. This form of treatment is often used in conjunction with physical therapy to help overcome discomfort to reach important functional goals.
When to consider surgical options, including SI joint fusion
Surgery to treat SI joint pain can become an option if conservative options have been thoroughly exhausted. One form of treatment is an SI joint fusion, which helps to stabilize the region and reduce painful and dysfunctional movement. Thanks to advances in minimally invasive techniques, it is now possible to perform this procedure on an outpatient basis.
If you’re suffering from SI joint pain and are seeking lasting relief, contact the team at USA Spine Care today. Our caring team of multidisciplinary experts will work closely with you to create a personalized SI joint pain relief plan that fits your needs and lifestyle. From SI joint injections and physical therapy to outpatient minimally invasive surgery, we want to help you on your journey toward relief.
SI Joint Pain Quick Answers
What does SI joint pain feel like?
Patients with sacroiliac (SI) joint pain typically report a sharp radiating pain into the hips and pelvic region. Other symptoms include leg pain and tingling and numbness in the extremities. Due to the similarity and overlap of symptoms, SI joint pain is frequently misdiagnosed as lower back pain, and vice versa.
What kind of doctor do you see for SI joint pain?
There are a range of physicians who are qualified to treat SI joint pain. Many patients will first work with a general practitioner for initial diagnosis and conservative treatment. One type of doctor who commonly treats SI joint pain is a physiatrist, which is a specialist in dysfunction and treatment of the musculoskeletal system. If conservative treatments have been fully exhausted without providing the relief necessary for a good quality of life, patients may consult with a spine surgeon.
Is it possible to fix a dysfunctional SI joint?
Upon diagnosis of SI joint pain, doctors will typically recommend a course of conservative therapies, including rest, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, hot and/or cold therapy, SI joint injections and physical therapy. Physical therapy can be particularly effective in helping to regain function and promote healthy range of motion in the SI joint. The long-term prognosis for SI joint pain and dysfunction depends on factors such as the cause of the condition or injury and the patient's health history.
Is walking and light exercise helpful for SI joint pain?
Since strenuous exercise, such as running and lifting, is often a contributor to SI joint pain, doctors will generally recommend avoiding any activity that places excess strain on the SI joint. As long as the activity does not cause pain and you have been cleared by your doctor, lighter activity, including walking and gentle stretching, may be beneficial for SI joint dysfunction. Working with a physical therapist to learn therapeutic exercises and undergo movement training is a great way to ensure physical activity does not exacerbate SI joint pain.