Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Your sacroiliac joints are part of the pelvis. They link the pelvis, or iliac bone, to the sacrum, the part of the spine above the tailbone.

The joints themselves do not possess a great deal of motion, but act as a shock absorber for the upper body when walking or lifting. Pain in the sacroiliac joint is known as sacroiliitis or sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The condition not only causes mobility issues, but the pain often becomes chronic. Constant pain frequently leads to lack of sleep and depression.

If you experience pain in the pelvic area, contact a back doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment.

Causes

Sacroiliac joint pain often results from trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident. If that is the case, the patient knows the cause of their discomfort. Other causes are subtler, including:

  • Arthritis – older individuals may develop sacroiliac pain because of long-term wear and tear on the joint
  • Pregnancy – when women are expecting, the sacroiliac joint must stretch for the expanding fetus and later during childbirth. Women who have had multiple pregnancies can stress the joints
  • Infection

Because of the nature of the causes of sacroiliac joint pain, it is found most often in elderly people and young or middle-aged women.

Symptoms

People suffering from sacroiliac joint pain feel it in the buttocks, hips and/or lower back. Some individuals may also experience pain in the legs and feet, as well as muscle spasms. They may mistake this lower back and leg pain for sciatica, while other pain is mistaken as hip-oriented. Pain may occur on one or both sides of the body.

Symptoms usually worsen with sitting, standing and stair-climbing.

Diagnosing Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Sacroiliac joint pain is a tricky condition to diagnose. Besides a physical examination, diagnosing sacroiliac joint pain involves X-rays of the pelvis. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allows the doctor to view bone and soft tissues in the area.

Many types of back ailments include similar symptoms, so the doctor will narrow the possibilities down by injecting an anesthetic into the joint. It is a process of elimination. If pain relief ensues, that is additional evidence that the issue emanates from the sacroiliac joint.

Pain Treatment

For some patients, over-the-counter medications suffice for pain control. Other patients will require stronger, prescription medication to ease pain. Muscle relaxants help control spasms. If necessary, an antidepressant may be prescribed.

The doctor may use steroid injections into the joint to stop pain, but such injections are limited to just a few annually.

These steroids can weaken the joint over time. Physical therapy provides patients with specific exercise to increase range of motion and stabilize muscles. Bracing is another method to aid in stabilization.

In more severe cases, radiofrequency ablation may eliminate the nerve tissue causing pain. Another option involves implantation of an electrical stimulator into the sacrum for pain reduction. In rare cases, the doctor may decide surgical joint fusion is the best choice for a patient.

Contacting a Surgeon

If you suffer from sacroiliac joint pain or any other back or joint issues, call an experienced surgeon to schedule an examination.