What is Sacroiliac Joint Pain?
Sacroiliac joint pain explained by Denver, Golden, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Littleton Colorado’s top pain doctors
The purpose of the sacroiliac joint (SIJ) is to link the sacrum (the triangular shaped bone found at the bottom of the spine) with the pelvis. The joint is located toward the bottom of the spine, under the lumbar region and above the coccyx. The sacroiliac joint is quite small and does not allow for a significant amount of movement. Strong ligaments aid in the sacroiliac joint’s ability to operate as a shield by transmitting the energy of the legs, hips, and upper body.
When people begin to age, the sacroiliac joint begins to fuse, commonly causing arthritis in that area due to cartilage deterioration within the joint. Pain caused by the sacroiliac joint is usually experienced in the lower half of the body, such as the back, hips, groin, and buttocks. Patients who suffer from sacroiliac joint pain commonly report more severe symptoms when walking or being on the feet for an extended amount of time. In some cases, a patient will develop bursitis, which is a type of pain that radiates on the side of the legs and in severe cases, can be felt throughout the hips and legs.
Causes of Sacroiliac Joint Pain
Types of severe trauma, like a motor vehicle accident injury, may trigger sacroiliac joint pain. When there are changes to a person’s pattern of movement or a significant increase in the amount of stress being put on the joint, pain and inflammation can form as a result.
Women can also develop sacroiliac joint pain during pregnancy. When the female body discharges hormones allowing the ligaments to relax in preparation for birth, the relaxed ligaments located around the sacroiliac joint can result in an increased range of motion, causing damage and pain to that surrounding area. A woman’s weight gain throughout pregnancy can also add increased amounts of pressure and stress to the sacroiliac joint, producing pain and inflammation.
The source of lower back pain is sometimes linked with the sacroiliac joint. Studies have shown that when the tissues located in the pelvic area become inflamed and stressed due to abnormalities in the pelvic ring, lower back pain may occur.
Treatments for Sacroiliac Joint PainSacroiliac joint pain can be difficult to diagnose since the symptoms can commonly be mistaken for other health problems. A physician will usually start by administering clinical tests surrounding the symptoms or injury and will thoroughly examine the areas of the spine and pelvis. A review of the patient’s medical history may also be helpful to indicate any pre-existing conditions. Imaging tests, such as MRI, CT scans, and X-rays are often used to not only diagnosis the condition, but to also help determine the severity.
Patients who suffer from sacroiliac joint pain have many treatment options. One of the most common types of treatment is sacroiliac joint injections. This treatment is administered by injecting a needle filled with anesthetic and a steroid directly into the sacroiliac joint. Once the medicine distributes itself throughout the area, the patient will begin to feel pain relief. Studies have shown that sacroiliac joint injections may offer pain and inflammation relief for a few days up to months at a time, depending on the severity of the patient’s symptoms.
Prescription medications are often recommended to treat the sacroiliac joint and have shown very high success rates with pain relief. The most frequently prescribed medications are muscle relaxants, steroid medications, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Alternative types of treatment are also becoming more common, with patients finding pain relief through acupuncture, physical therapy, and chiropractic therapy.
For severe cases of sacroiliac joint pain, interventional procedures such as radiofrequency ablation, medial branch blocks, and spinal cord stimulation have been proven effective for pain relief.
ConclusionLocated at the base of the spine, the sacroiliac joint assists with connecting the body’s spine to the pelvis. Since this is a weight-bearing area of the body, as a person ages their cartilage will thin and inflammation becomes common in the sacroiliac joint. When this happens due to injury, degenerative arthritis, or pregnancy, a patient can begin to experience pain during any type of movement. Although problematic to diagnose, treatments such as acupuncture, sacroiliac joint injections, andnon-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have shown to be successful with pain relief. For patients with severe conditions, interventional treatments like medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablation are commonly recommended.
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