Low Back Pain Caused by SI Joint Dysfunction

SI Joint Dysfunction Treatment

As many as one in four patients who suffer low back pain has a condition that has nothing to do with the spine: sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction. SI joint dysfunction can cause severe pain in the lower back, upper buttock, groin, and even down one or both legs. The pain often gets worse after standing for a long time or climbing stairs.

Because previous low back fusion is one common cause of SI joint dysfunction, disc problems in adjacent vertebrae are often mistakenly thought to be the cause of the pain. Other common causes of SI joint dysfunction are a fall or other trauma to the low back or tailbone, a discrepancy in leg length, an abnormal gait or walk, and scoliosis. Pregnancy also is a common cause, but the SI joint dysfunction typically goes away after giving birth.

Our expert back doctors specialize in correctly diagnosing and treating SI joint dysfunction. To diagnose, your spine doctor will conduct some simple tests that involve moving your legs and hips. Your back doctor also may inject anesthesia into your SI joint. If this provides temporary relief, it helps confirm the diagnosis of SI joint dysfunction.

It’s worthwhile to note that many spine surgeons do not treat SI joint dysfunction; however, Penn Highlands Neurosurgery is experienced in diagnosing and able to treat this condition.

What is SI Joint Dysfunction?

The sacroiliac joint joins the sacrum to the iliac bones. The sacrum is the triangular-shaped bone at the bottom of your spine. The iliac is the large crescent shaped bone that is part of your hip. Unlike knee and hip joints, the sacroiliac joint is not meant to move much. This weight-bearing joint is designed to absorb the impact to the spine from daily activities like walking and jumping. Certain conditions can make the SI joint unstable, resulting in inflammation, lower back pain, and posterior pelvic pain that can radiate down the legs.

What are the Symptoms of SI Joint Dysfunction?

Common symptoms of SI joint dysfunction are:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in the upper buttock, which may go into the groin or thigh
  • Pain that gets worse with sitting, sleeping, climbing stairs, or squatting
  • Stiffness and difficulty getting up when seated or getting out of bed

How is SI Joint Dysfunction Treated?

In some cases, sacroiliac joint pain can be successfully treated with physical therapy and over-the-counter pain relief medications. This is particularly true for SI joint dysfunction during pregnancy, which is caused by relaxation of the ligaments in the pelvis and normally recedes after childbirth.

If your sacroiliac joint pain isn’t relieved with noninvasive treatment, your back doctor may recommend minimally invasive SI joint fusion. In contrast to open fusion that required a long incision and considerable muscle trauma, minimally invasive fusion is performed through one 2-inch incision without disrupting the surrounding muscles. The spine neurosurgeon places three triangular devices across the SI joint. Over time, the bone grows into and around the implants to stabilize the joint.

Up to 85 percent of patients who have SI joint fusion performed remain free of sacroiliac joint pain a year later.

If you are struggling with lower back pain, schedule an appointment with a back doctor close to you by calling 814-503-4433.

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