The sacrum is a series of five vertebrae (S-1 to S-5) that form a triangular bone that is attached to the pelvis (hip bone). People are susceptible to injuries and pain in this area, especially if they are older or highly active. Pain can be caused by a number of conditions including injured muscles attached to the sacral vertebrae (i.e. gluteus maximus), spinal stenosis, herniated disk and even osteoporosis. Sciatica is more common in the S-1 vertebrae. Treatment for sacral vertebrae pain is contingent upon a person's condition. But a combination of rest, ice, massage and rehabilitation exercises can be highly effective in overcoming this type of ailment.
Sacral vertebrae pain is often called sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Woman are usually more susceptible to this condition because their sacrum is wider and shorter than those in men. Pain often affects one side of the back and shoots down the legs or to the knees. According to Dr. Peter F. Ullrich, Jr, sacral pain is usually caused by too little or too much movement in the sacroiliac joint, which is where the sacrum attaches to the hip. The pain can often resemble a herniated disk or sciatica.
Effects of Rest, Ice & Heat
Despite a person's condition, they can generally relieve some degree of pain with a combination of rest, ice and heat. Rest entails stopping all physical activities to avoid further injury. Rest also allows the ice to reduce inflammation and pain. Ice is usually used the first 48 hours. Ice causes vasoconstriction which controls pain by limiting blood and lymph flow to the affected area. Ice is most effective when it is compressed against the sacrum at 20-minute intervals. Once, swelling has subsided, heat can be used to increase blood (with its healing properties) flow to the area.
Types of Medications
Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can help relieve sacral vertebrae pain until a proper diagnosis is made. These medications are Cox-2 inhibitors which minimise the body's natural reaction to injuries--namely, limiting Cox-2 enzymes and the production of prostaglandins (chemicals). Steroids may be prescribed for more severe pain.
Types of Exercise
A person can relieve sacral vertebrae pain by doing some basic stretching and strength-building exercises. Many of these exercises are performed while lying down, either pushing the back to the floor, squeezing the buttocks or raising one or both knees up to the chest. Some exercises entail standing up and stretching. These exercises increase blood flow to the area and strengthen the muscles attached to the sacrum. This provides better support for the sacral vertebrae and helps to relieve pain.
There is no set time frame for overcoming sacral vertebrae pain. People with severe cases may need surgery, then there is usually an ensuing rehabilitation program. Treatment should be constant as it could take months to completely get over sacral pain. Most conditions, including herniated disks, can eventually heal on their own.
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