About Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Updated June 13, 2017

The sacroiliac (SI) joints connect the spine to the pelvis and are held together by a group of ligaments. Normally, there isn't much motion at the SI joints. But when abnormal movement or inflammation does occur, the result is often pain that ranges from minor to debilitating. SI joint pain is often misdiagnosed as being caused by herniated disks, muscle strains, or problems with the sciatic nerve. Once it's correctly identified, SI joint pain can usually be treated.


Sacroiliac joint pain usually is felt in the lower back or in the back of the hips. It may seem to spread to the groin and thighs, and sometimes, its exact location can be difficult to pinpoint. SI joint pain is usually worse when standing, walking, or otherwise being active, and is relieved when sitting or lying down. If the pain is caused by arthritis in the SI joint, symptoms may include stiffness and a burning sensation in the pelvic area, according to Medicine Net. A physician or chiropractor can perform tests to help isolate the source of the pain.


The most common cause of sacroiliac joint pain is degenerative arthritis, which occurs when the layer of cartilage covering the joints becomes damaged or wears away, allowing the bones to rub together. Pregnancy is another common cause of SI joint pain. As the body prepares for childbirth, hormones are released that relax the ligaments, including those holding the SI joints together. This loosening facilitates increased motion in the joints, according to Medicine Net, which can lead to abnormal joint stress and wear. Any disorder related to the joints, such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis, can also cause SI joint inflammation and pain.


Physiotherapy can be effective in treating sacroiliac joint pain. When the pain is caused by too much or not enough joint movement, it often can be alleviated by stabilising or stretching exercises prescribed by a physical therapist. Patients whose pain is caused by joint overrelaxation might find relief in a sacroiliac belt that wraps around the hips, adding stability to the SI joints. Options for SI joint pain caused by inflammation include injecting an anesthetic and a steroid into the joint, or taking oral anti-inflammatory medicines. Surgery may be considered, depending on the cause of the pain, if less invasive treatments fail.


Sacroiliac joint pain can be part of the normal ageing process and is not always preventable. However, staying at a healthy weight and keeping in good shape may reduce your odds of developing SI joint pain. If SI joint pain occurs despite preventive efforts, the pain can be somewhat controlled through treatments such as targeted exercises or medications, as outlined previously.


If you suspect you're experiencing sacroiliac joint pain, don't procrastinate about visiting a physician, physical therapist, or chiropractor. Living with the pain without addressing the causes could seriously injure your SI joints. In addition, if your SI joint pain is caused by an arthritis condition called ankylosing spondylitis, and you aren't treated, you could experience complications, including trouble breathing, heart problems, and spinal deformities, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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About the Author

Jennifer Kirby has a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a newspaper staffer until 2002, when she began working as a freelance copy editor and writer.