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SI joint pain

General information about SI joint pain

SI joint pain occurs when the sacroiliac joint that connects the top of the pelvis to the lower portion of the spine becomes damaged or inflamed. This kind of pain can be difficult to diagnose, although it may account for up to a quarter of all lower back pain complaints.

SI joint pain diagnosis

Sacroiliac joint pain isn’t always easy to identify because many other sources of back pain produce similar symptoms. However, there are certain red flags that may lead a physician to think that an SI joint is at fault, such as lower back pain upon standing, especially if it occurs only on one side. But, because it’s difficult to be sure about a diagnosis without special imaging, a physician may advise someone with sacroiliac joint pain to begin conservative treatments right away to see if the problem resolves easily before determining if additional diagnostic testing or treatment is needed.

SI joint pain causes

The sacroiliac joints bear a large amount of weight during standing, walking and other everyday activities. Responsible for holding up the entirety of the spinal column and supporting the upper half of the body, these joints can be damaged in several ways, including:

  • Age-related wear and tear on the cartilage on the surfaces of the joint
  • Injury to the joint, caused by a traumatic sports injury or repetitive jolts
  • Abnormal walking patterns or uneven strides
  • Changes to the joint and surrounding ligaments associated with pregnancy
  • A condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which fuses joints together and makes them less mobile

Potential symptoms

SI joint pain can manifest in various ways and in some unexpected places. Although most people feel the pain at the joint itself, it can radiate out to other areas of the lower back and even down the buttock, thigh or leg. This occurs due to nerve compression, much like sciatica. Sacroiliac joint problems can also hinder mobility, making it tougher to walk uphill or upstairs.

Available treatments for SI joint pain

Sacroiliac joint pain is often addressed in the same way that other forms of back pain are — with strategic periods of rest, medications, targeted stretches and exercise. Although people who are going through severe lower back pain would probably rather take it easy, staying still for too long can further impact mobility and the spine’s overall health. In fact, losing excess weight can reduce some of the strain on these joints, which may help relieve symptoms.

For more severe cases of sacroiliac pain, physicians may recommend corticosteroid injections into the joints to help with pain and other symptoms.

When SI joint pain may require surgery

Surgery is only considered when other less invasive methods haven’t helped satisfactorily reduce symptoms. Unlike conservative treatments, surgery can actually address the underlying issue of SI joint pain directly. Patients who are thinking about having surgery for their SI joint problems should first understand all the options available to them. Beyond traditional open spine surgery, there is also minimally invasive spine surgery, like the procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute’s Cincinnati location.

Contact us today to learn about Laser Spine Institute and our minimally invasive approach to spine surgery, and to find out if you’re a candidate for our procedures by getting a no-cost MRI review*