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Signs Your Lower Back Pain May Stem From Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Apr 16, 2024
Signs Your Lower Back Pain May Stem From Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
There are many roads to lower back pain — muscle strain, sciatica, arthritis — but sacroiliac joint dysfunction accounts for a larger portion than many realize. Here’s what we want you to know.

You’ve heard of the usual suspects when it comes to lower back pain — sciatica, herniated discs, arthritis, muscle strains — but many people haven’t heard of sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction. Well, it’s time to get acquainted with this lower back issue, as we now understand that it may be responsible for 15% to 30% of all lower back pain.

If you’re having trouble with your lower back and looking for answers, this is a good place to start. Our team of spine health experts here at Commonwealth Pain & Spine recognizes the range of conditions that can lead to lower back pain, and we want to focus on SI joint dysfunction in this month’s blog post.

Sacroiliac joints 101

Let’s first take a quick dive into the anatomy in question — your SI joints. Your sacrum is at the bottom of your spine, a triangular-shaped bone between your lumbar spine and your coccyx, or tailbone. Your sacrum connects to your hip bones via your SI joints, which act as shock absorbers between your upper and lower body. 

These hard-working joints don't allow for much movement as they focus more on stability.

Two roads to SI joint dysfunction

There are two ways you can experience issues in your SI joints:

1. Too much movement

If your SI joints become loose, this allows too much movement, which can make this area unstable and painful.

2. Too little movement

On the opposite end of the spectrum, SI joint pain can occur if there is not enough movement in these joints. This lack of movement can lead to muscle tension and affect your ability to move.

Signs of SI joint dysfunction

It can often be tough to determine which structures in your lower back are causing problems, and there can be considerable crossover in symptoms.

For example, SI joint dysfunction can often lead to symptoms that mimic sciatica, namely:

  • Pain in your lower back on one side
  • Pain that shoots down one leg

Other symptoms of SI joint dysfunction include:

  • Dull pain in your lower back, buttock, groin, and/or upper thigh
  • Stiffness in your lower back and pelvis
  • Instability — you might feel like your pelvis is going to give out
  • Troubles with climbing stairs

The best way to figure out whether your symptoms are related to SI joint dysfunction or some other condition is to come see us.

Diagnosing and treating SI joint dysfunction

If, after reviewing your symptoms, we suspect you might be dealing with SI joint dysfunction, our first go-to tool is a sacroiliac joint injection

These injections have two uses: diagnostic and treatment. To confirm that your lower back pain is related to your SI joints, we first inject a local anesthetic into the joints to see if you feel an improvement.

If this diagnostic nerve block is successful, we know we’ve identified the right target, and we can go ahead and administer a longer-lasting injection that contains an anesthetic and steroid to reduce inflammation.

This pain relief allows you to engage in some physical therapy to strengthen the tissues supporting your SI joints for long-term relief.

If you want to figure out whether your lower back issues stem from SI joint problems, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment at one of our 21 locations in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.