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SI joint pain

What is SI joint pain?

The SI joint, or sacroiliac joint, connects the sacrum, the lowest portion of the spine, to the ilium, which is the top part of the pelvis. It also bears the weight of the body while standing and walking. Because it sustains so much wear, it’s not uncommon for this joint to begin aching — studies show up to 30 percent of people who experience lower back pain can trace it back to an issue in this joint.

Diagnosing SI joint problems

Just because it’s common doesn’t mean the cause of sacroiliac joint pain is easy to diagnose. Many other back problems can cause similar symptoms, so physicians have to take careful stock of a patient’s history and performance on certain physical tests, then consider the information gathered with various imaging exams performed, such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan, to reach a diagnosis.

SI joint pain causes

Sacroiliac joint pain can arise for several reasons, including aging and pregnancy. As the body grows older, the cartilage that lines the major joints of the spine can be rubbed away, causing pain. Pregnancy can also cause changes in these joints, and the results can be painful. These joints can also be damaged through sustaining falls, taking uneven strides or even having a previous lumbar fusion surgery.

Symptoms of SI joint damage

SI joint pain can take many forms, and not all of them are limited to the area immediately surrounding the affected joint. Signs of SI joint dysfunction can include any or all of the following:

  • Sciatica-like pain in the lower back that can radiate to the thigh or groin area
  • Pain worsening while walking up stairs and hills
  • Difficulty lying on the affected side

SI joint pain treatments

Acute sacroiliac joint pain is addressed in much the same way that other forms of acute back pain are — with limited rest, icing or heating the affected area, medications to control pain and inflammation and physical therapy to help reestablish proper motion. However, for cases that continue beyond a few weeks, physicians often recommend addition diagnostic tests, as well as joint injections as necessary. For many patients, significant relief can be found through these methods, but for others, surgery is the only way to address the underlying structural issues that are causing the painful symptoms.

Surgery for SI joint pain

Sacroiliac joint pain can be treated through several types of surgery. While some patients may choose traditional open spine surgery, patients who opt for the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute can benefit from a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complications.

Contact Laser Spine Institute today for a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for one our minimally invasive spine procedures. We operate surgical centers across the country, including one in Scottsdale, Ariz.