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What is Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction?

Written By: James W. Berk, M.D.

The sacroiliac (SI) joints support the weight of the upper body and distribute it evenly across the pelvis. They are located on either side of the body between the tailbone and the uppermost point of the pelvis. The jagged edges of the SI joints help the body remain aligned, while the muscles and ligaments connecting the SI joints add stability. The SI joints play essential roles in helping the body remain upright. Due to where the SI joints are, SI joint dysfunction is often misdiagnosed as a spinal condition, such as a herniated disc.

Most SI joint pain is short-term, meaning that it was caused by a small strain or injury and may go away with conservative care treatments. However, severe SI joint dysfunction may be a chronic condition and is responsible for 15-30 percent of chronic lower back pain cases.

How to Recognize SI Joint Dysfunction

Issues with the SI joint may present themselves differently depending on the individual. Common symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the buttocks, hips or pelvis
  • Pain on one side
  • Pain that worsens when standing
  • Pelvic stiffness
  • Numbness or weakness in hips or lower back
  • Radiating pain through thighs
  • Feeling as if your legs may give out from under you

What Causes SI Joint Dysfunction?

Inflammation is the number one cause of SI joint pain. When the SI joints become inflamed, it is called sacroiliitis. Sacroiliitis is a general term that includes a number of conditions affecting the SI joints, including:

  • Osteoarthritis: Continuous stress of the SI joints can wear down the cartilage and lead to arthritis. Most types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, are the result of natural aging.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS): AS is an inflammatory arthritis that fuses the joints together, leading to chronic pain.
  • Injury: Traumatic injuries such as falls, car accidents and sports injuries can lead to problems with the SI joint.
  • Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the body releases a hormone that makes the SI joints more elastic to allow for childbirth. While this is a necessary process, it makes the SI joints less stable and prone to pain.
  • Post-surgical: increased motion of joints after lumbar fusion

How Do We Treat SI Joint Pain?

Conservative methods for SI joint pain always come first. This may include physical therapy and medications. If these treatments fail to relieve pain, SI joint injection, radio frequency ablation and minimally invasive fusion are options to treat this condition with shortness recovery times. Newer minimally invasive options create the opportunity to treat this condition with short recovery times.

We also perform clinical research on the newest options for SI joint dysfunction

If you suffer from low back pain, it may be SI joint dysfunction. Learn more by requesting your appointment online today: appointment

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