Is Sacroiliac Joint Pain causing my back or hip pain?

Is Sacroiliac Joint Pain causing my back or hip pain?

Sacroiliac Joint Pain Symptoms & Treatment Options

The sacroiliac joint (SI joint) is a major juncture in the body at which the spine attaches to the hips. It is composed of two major structures: the sacrum and the iliac bones. The sacrum, a portion of the spine consisting of 5 fused vertebrae, is located between the lumbar (lower back) and coccyx (tail bone) regions of the spine. This semi-rigid section of our spine joins to the interior of the ilium bones. The ilia are the two bones that we often associate with our hips, fanning out on either side. To get an idea of where this joint may be in your body, look for the two dimples on your lower back; these lie on top of the SI joints.

The joint between the sacrum and ilium is a unique structure, having an individualized size and shape much like our fingerprints. The bones are designed to seamlessly fit together along a series of ridges and bumps, like the pieces of a puzzle.  The linking bones are cushioned in-between by two layers of protective cartilage. Adjacent nerves monitor and send messages to the brain and nearby ligaments serve to reinforce the joint itself.

Because the sacroiliac joint is one of the main connections between the upper and lower body, it plays an integral role in our stability. The SI joint acts chiefly as a shock absorber, dampening forces between the upper body and the legs and enabling us to maintain our steadiness. Jumping, bouncing in a car, carrying heavy objects—these everyday impacts are all buffered with the help of the SI joint.

Although the SI Joint is mainly static, certain spinal conditions, trauma, or degenerative disorders can cause the SI joint to shift out of position. When the joint becomes unaligned or the tissues that support the SI bones become injured or compromised by illness, these bones can rub together and pinch the nerves that pass in-between them. This condition is what we refer to as Sacroiliac Joint Pain or Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction. Resulting from conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, sports injuries, falls, accidents, or hormonal changes during pregnancy, SI Joint Dysfunction can generate a slew of debilitating symptoms.

Symptoms of Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Symptoms of sacroiliac joint pain can vary depending upon the person and the cause of the inflammation. It is important to keep in mind that the symptoms associated with SI joint pain can be very similar to those of other spinal and skeletal conditions, such as bulging or herniated discs and sciatica. It is important to work with a physician to receive an accurate diagnosis. However, these are the symptoms to keep a watchful eye out for:

  • Localized pain experienced in the lower back, buttocks, or hips
  • Radiating pain, typically along the front or back side of one leg
  • Stiffness or a feeling of immobility in the lower back region
  • Tingling sensations in the lower back, buttocks, or hips
  • Pain linked to specific movements, such as rolling over in bed
  • A feeling that your legs may buckle or give out under you, resulting in falls

Our team of knowledgeable physicians at the Advanced Spine Center will work one-on-one with you to establish an individualized plan of action to extinguish your pain. Experienced in the most state-of-the-art and minimally invasive treatments, our team of orthopedic surgeons ranks among the Top Doctors in New Jersey for superior, patient-centered, and compassionate care.

Determining a Diagnosis of Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Because the sacroiliac joints are nestled deeply within the body, and hence pose difficulty for obtaining access sacroiliac joint pain (SI joint pain) can be challenging to diagnose. Additionally, the symptoms of SI Joint pain can be very similar to other spinal conditions. Keep in mind, however, that a significant number of reported back pain cases can be traced back to SI joint pain; therefore, it is important to work closely with your physician to reach an accurate diagnosis.

There are many techniques that your physician may employ to determine if you are suffering from sacroiliac joint pain or to rule out other possible conditions. To begin, physical examinations and an evaluation of your family medical history will most likely occur. Next steps may include the use of X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans. Unfortunately, the SI joints are sometimes difficult to pick up on scans due to their depth in the body, which will require further investigation.

Two of the main detection techniques to diagnose SI joint dysfunction include movement analysis and injections. Your physician may ask you to perform a number of gentle movements which will target the joint and enable a more thorough evaluation of your condition. Injections called sacroiliac joint blocks or diagnostic SI injections can be used to determine the location of inflammation. During this procedure your physician, with the assistance of X-ray imaging, will inject a corticosteroid into the body at the sacroiliac joint. If these injections ease or eliminate your discomfort, it can be inferred that the sacroiliac joint is the source of your pain.

Sacroiliac Joint Pain Treatment Options

Pain Management

Medication is often one of the first steps in treating SI joint pain. Anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen will help with both pain and inflammation. Prescription strength corticosteroids may be prescribed to deal with extreme inflammation or arthritic symptoms.

Injections & Ablations

Anti-inflammatory cortisone injections can be administered periodically by your physician to decrease inflammation. Radiofrequency ablations involve the use of an electrical current to create heat, which serves to dampen the nerve signals that generate your pain.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can work with you on certain beneficial exercises and movements, as well as deep tissue stimulation or hot/cold regimens. Complementary treatment options include: massage therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and chiropractic adjustments.

SI Joint Fusion

For those experiencing excruciating pain, SI joint fusion may offer much needed relief. During this procedure, either one or both of the SI joints will be fused using small plates and screws, which restrict the movement of the joint and relieve nerve compression.

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