Diagnosis and Treatment of Sacroiliac Pain

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The following is sponsored by Salt Lake Regional Medical Center.

Back pain is a very common health complaint, and identifying the cause is key to finding the appropriate treatment option. A few of the most common causes of back pain include musculoskeletal, arthritic pain of the joints between each vertebra, and nerve pain from pressure on nerve roots that exit the spinal cord. This is usually referred to as sciatica. For some people, back pain is caused by inflammation of the sacroiliac joint (SI joint). The SI joint sits on each side of the bottom of the spine, connecting the sacrum to the pelvis. This joint acts as a shock absorber of forces from the upper and lower body.

Pain in the SI joint can be caused by arthritis of the joint or injuries to the ligaments around the joint. You have a higher risk of SI joint pain if you practice repetitive activities that load the pelvis such as jogging or other sports, previous back surgery, and even pregnancy.

Symptoms of SI joint dysfunction

  • Dull or sharp pain that can spread through upper legs, buttocks, groin, and lower back
  • Pain when standing up from a seated position
  • Feeling of leg instability
  • Inability to sit for long periods of time
  • In rare cases, numbness or tingling in lower extremities

Diagnosis of SI joint dysfunction
To determine if the source of the pain is from the SI joint, a doctor will perform a physical exam, which can include moving and positioning the legs to check for pain. The doctor will also rule out other sources of pain such as disc herniation.

Treatment Options

  • Rest
  • Ice and heat
  • Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen
  • Physical therapy and stretching
  • SI joint injections
  • SI joint radiofrequency ablation
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