Is Your SI Joint Causing Lower Back Pain? 

Developing lower back pain is more common now than ever. Work setting and lifestyle changes have caused many to adopt unhealthy habits that can lead to back pain, particularly sharp pain felt in the lower back. For example, the work-from-home movement due to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to develop back and neck pain due to spending long periods hunched over a laptop.

Sharp lower back pain can have many causes; one is sacroiliac (SI) joint damage. Keep reading to learn more about the SI joint, its connection to lower back pain, and what you can do to ease your discomfort.

What Is Sacroiliac Joint Pain?

If you’re experiencing sharp, stabbing pain in your lower back, it could be due to sacroiliac (SI) joint pain. However, before you can determine if it’s the cause of your discomfort, you must first understand what it is and how it’s connected within your body. We can help…

The Sacroiliac Joint

Pointing at SI joint

The sacroiliac (SI) joint is a crucial junction in the human body, connecting the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) with the ilium (the large, wing-shaped bone of the pelvis). The SI joint is located in the lower back, just above the tailbone (coccyx), and slightly to the side of the midline.

The primary function of the sacroiliac joint is to transfer the upper body’s weight to the pelvis and legs during standing, walking, and other weight-bearing activities. The SI joint and other structures in the neck and spine also help absorb shock and distribute forces generated during movement.

What Does SI Joint Pain Feel Like?

Sacroiliac joint pain typically presents as a dull ache or sharp, stabbing pain in the lower back, buttocks, hips, or groin region. The pain may also radiate down the back of the thigh or into the lower leg. Individuals with sacroiliac joint pain often describe the discomfort as deep, localized, and aggravated by specific movements or activities.

Weight-bearing movements or activities can exacerbate sacroiliac joint pain. These activities include:

  • Standing for prolonged periods
  • Walking
  • Climbing the stairs
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Transitioning from sitting to standing
  • Twisting or bending

What Are the Causes of SI Joint Pain?

Since the primary purpose of the SI joint is to cushion shock and distribute weight when moving, it would make sense that overuse of this joint could cause pain. However, varying factors like inflammation or degenerative changes could also cause SI joint pain.

Let’s explore these other causes further:

  • Blunt Force Trauma - Direct trauma to the pelvis or lower back — such as a fall, car accident, or sports injury — can damage the ligaments, cartilage, or bones surrounding the sacroiliac joint, leading to pain and dysfunction.
  • Degenerative Changes - Over time, the sacroiliac joint can undergo degenerative changes, including wear and tear of the cartilage, bone spur (osteophytes) formation, and loss of joint space.
  • Inflammatory Conditions - Inflammatory conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, or other forms of spondyloarthritis can affect the sacroiliac joint, leading to inflammation, pain, stiffness, and potentially joint damage.
  • Poor Posture and Body Mechanics - Poor posture, improper body mechanics, and repetitive movements that place excessive stress on the sacroiliac joint can contribute to developing SI joint pain over time.

Diagnosis and Treatment of SI Joint Pain

Doctors often use a combination of various diagnostic procedures to determine the presence and extent of the patient’s SI damage. Here’s an outline of the diagnostic options for SI joint pain:

  • A detailed review of medical history
  • A comprehensive physical examination
  • Imaging studies, such as X-rays and MRIs

In terms of treatment, doctors also use various techniques to alleviate SI joint pain. Here are some of the most preferred SI joint pain treatment options:

  • Corticosteroid Injections - Doctors may inject a corticosteroid medication into the SI joint to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Physical Therapy - Practicing exercises that stretch, strengthen, and stabilize the muscles surrounding the SI joint can help alleviate pain and improve function.
  • Medications - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, or other prescription medications can help relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Minimally-Invasive Surgery - In rare cases where other non-invasive treatment options have failed, doctors may recommend surgery to address severe SI joint pain and dysfunction. A minimally invasive surgical procedure called sacroiliac joint fusion involves placing titanium implants to provide long-term pain relief and improved function.

Rely on the Experienced Team of Specialists at OrthoUnited

Don’t let your lower back pain prevent you from living a healthy and active lifestyle. Our team of experienced providers at OrthoUnited is here to help you regain your mobility and alleviate your SI joint pain. Schedule an appointment today!