Back pain can have a multitude of causes, from sciatica and sports injuries to arthritis. A lesser known cause is sacroiliac joint dysfunction or SI joint pain.
This condition is often due to inflammation of the joints between your spine and hips. It can mimic other disorders, including hip fractures and herniated discs. For this reason, it’s recommended to consult a medical professional as soon as you feel pain in your lower back, legs, or buttocks.
Dysfunction in the sacroiliac joint affects up to 26 percent of postpartum women. However, it can also result from injuries, falls, aging, and degenerative joint diseases. An experienced physiotherapist can determine the exact cause and recommend the best course of action.
What Is Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction?
The sacroiliac joints are located between your pelvis and lower spine. Under normal conditions, they should be stable and rigid. Sometimes, they may become less stable, hypermobile, or too stiff, causing pain. This condition is known as sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Its primary causes include:
- Stiffness or hypomobility
- Instability or hypermobility
Any of these issues can occur due to a variety of factors, from trauma and injuries to hormonal imbalances. High-impact injuries, for example, may affect the ligaments that hold the sacroiliac joints in place, leading to hypermobility.
Women who gave birth are prone to this condition because of the hormonal changes they went through. During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin allows the birthing canal to expand. After birth, the stretched ligaments may not return to normal, which in turn, causes pelvic joint pain and instability. This problem is more common in women who’ve had prolonged labor or delivered large babies.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction may also be due to muscle imbalances, altered gait patterns, and certain conditions like hip osteoarthritis, scoliosis, leg-length inequality, and more. When the SI joints lose their mobility and become stiffer, it’s typically due to an infection, arthritis spondylosis, or inflammatory disorders. Sometimes, the joints lock because of the normal wear and tear associated with aging.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction are similar to those of sciatica and other musculoskeletal conditions. Most people experience sharp or dull pain in the buttocks and legs, lower back pain, tingling, numbness, instability, and stiffness. The pain tends to worse when you’re lying on the side, jogging, running, or climbing stairs. In general, it occurs on one side.
Many women who suffer from this condition report sacroiliac pain during menstruation or sexual intercourse. The pain may also occur when you’re sitting cross-legged, walking, or standing, and often radiates to the upper thigh, groin, and lower hip. If left untreated, it can become more severe and make it difficult to perform daily activities. You may not be able to sleep, exercise, or even walk normally.
How Effective Is Physical Therapy?
Treatment options for sacroiliac joint dysfunction depend on the severity of pain. Anti-inflammatory medications, ice and heat therapy, and painkillers can help. If your symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it’s recommended to see a physiotherapist. Surgery is only prescribed in severe cases when everything else fails.
Studies confirm the effectiveness of manipulation, exercise, and other physiotherapy interventions for this disorder. Most physiotherapists use a combination of active and passive treatments to relieve pain and reduce dysfunction.
Certain exercises, such as lower trunk rotations and knee-to-chest stretches, can improve your symptoms. A skilled therapist can also show you how to improve your posture and body mechanics to decrease pain and resume your daily activities.
Remember that we are here to help. Whether you’re struggling with sacroiliac joint dysfunction, sciatica, neck pain, or fractures, our team can develop a custom treatment plan for your individual needs. Schedule an appointment at 888-312-5764 to find out more!