Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction Treatment
While lower back pain affects nearly 80 percent of adults, it’s estimated that dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint is responsible for 15 to 30 percent of all lower back pain cases. As a common cause of discomfort among Americans, chiropractors across the nation have worked steadily to compose treatment plans that can safely address pain at the source. However, each case of sacroiliac joint dysfunction is different, and treatment deserves personalized attention.
At ChiroCare of Florida, we pride ourselves in offering customized treatment plans to address each patient’s unique needs. If sacroiliac joint dysfunction has been causing you back, hip, and leg pain, discover how one of our 11 chiropractic offices can help.
What Is the Sacroiliac Joint?
Your body has two sacroiliac joints, which are located in the lower back on each side of the spine. The joint gets its name from the two bones it connects – the sacrum and the iliac bones. The sacrum is a triangular bone located at the bottom of the lumbar spine, just above the tailbone. The iliac bones are the two large bones that make up the pelvis. Together, the two form the sacroiliac joint, connecting the bones of the pelvis to the spine.
The sacrum is connected to the iliac bones through a network of soft tissue, including a collection of strong ligaments which extend across the joint to the back of the pelvis. The purpose of this tissue is to help with shock absorption between the upper body and the pelvis, as well as provide support and limit movement at the joint. Unlike most of the vertebrae, or small bones, that make up the spine, the sacrum is composed of five vertebrae that are fused together. Therefore, unlike the vertebrae of the spinal column, the sacrum is completely immobile. For this reason, the sacroiliac joints also experience relatively little motion.
What’s Happening When the Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunctions?
Dysfunction occurs when the joint is unable to function as normal. For the sacroiliac joint, “normal” means that the joint itself should experience a relatively small amount of motion to keep the pelvis and back stable. However, degeneration, trauma, and other conditions adversely affect this motion. Specifically, joint dysfunction occurs when the joint experiences:
- Hypomobility – Too Little Movement: The sacroiliac joint already has limited mobility. However, a loss of cartilage in the joint can cause muscle tension and pain, which can inhibit mobility completely. When this occurs, pain is typically felt on one side of the lower back or buttocks, or can radiate down the leg.
- Hypermobility – Too Much Movement: Too much movement in the joint causes the pelvis to feel unstable, leading to pain. When this occurs, pain is typically felt in the hip and/or lower back, and can radiate into the groin area.
When the sacroiliac joint dysfunctions, pain can spread to the hips, thighs, buttocks, and even the upper back. While conditions stemming from the dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint are typically referred to as sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SI joint dysfunction), other names for the condition include:
- Sacroiliac joint disease
- SI joint syndrome
- SI joint strain
- SI joint inflammation
What Causes Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction?
As with most joints in the body, the sacroiliac joint is covered with a layer of cartilage. Another form of connective tissue, cartilage provides support but is less rigid than bone. It plays an important role in the joint, allowing for some flexibility of movement, but providing more stability than muscle. The sacroiliac joint often dysfunctions when cartilage is worn away or damaged. Without cartilage, bones begin to rub against each other and can experience too much movement. This creates inflammation at the joint, which is typically when pain begins.
While cartilage can wear away with age and natural wear-and-tear, it’s more likely that an associated condition, trauma, or disease can damage the sacroiliac joint. Certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing sacroiliac joint dysfunction, including:
- Osteoarthritis: This degenerative form of arthritis is the most common cause of joint dysfunction.
- Pregnancy: Hormonal changes cause the ligaments in the sacroiliac joint to relax, creating hypermobility in the joint itself. Weight gain and pelvic changes during pregnancy can also create sacroiliac joint pain and instability.
- Gait Issues: Issues such as scoliosis can place uneven pressure on one side of the pelvis, wearing down the joint and increasing the risk of pain.
- Back Surgery: Sacroiliac joint pain is more likely following hip joint replacement surgery, fusion surgery, and a discectomy.
- Trauma: The jolt of a fall or impact sports injuries can create joint pain.
- Repeated Stress: Contact sports, labor-extensive jobs, and routine heavy lifting can place repeated stress on the joint, contributing to pain.
Symptoms of Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
Symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction can differ from patient to patient, especially depending on the underlying cause. For some, the pain is dull, and for others it’s sharp. Pain can begin at the joint itself, but it can move to the buttocks, thighs, groin, or even upper back. Pain can also radiate down the back of the leg, causing many patients to confuse their condition with sciatica or radiculopathy.
Common symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction include:
- Pain typically felt on one side of the body that spreads to the hips, buttocks, and/or groin.
- Hot, sharp, and stabbing sciatic-like pain in the buttocks and/or backs of the thighs. May include numbness and tingling. Sciatic-mimicking symptoms from sacroiliac joint dysfunction rarely extend below the knee.
- Stiffness and reduced range-of-motion.
- Difficulty with movements such as bending at the waist, running or jogging, lying on one side, or walking up the stairs.
- A feeling like the pelvis will buckle when walking or standing, or while sitting down.
Chiropractic Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction Treatment
Chiropractic has its foundation in manipulations and mobilizations, which place targeted pressure on a bone or joint that has moved out of its respective alignment in the body. For patients experiencing sacroiliac joint dysfunction symptoms, chiropractic can restore or enhance proper joint function to relieve pain and inflammation. Depending on a patient’s preferences, as well as, what symptoms they’re currently exhibiting, a manipulation, mobilization, or combination of both will be used.
- Spinal Manipulation: The patient lies on one side and a chiropractor applies specific pressure and/or thrusting techniques to the area where the affected joint is located. This approach increases the joint’s range of motion, as well as, decreases stiffness of the muscles and ligaments, allowing the joint to move more appropriately. This technique creates the popping sound that many people associate with chiropractic adjustments.
- Spinal Mobilization: The patient lies on one side and a chiropractor uses a slower, less “thrusting” motion to mobilize the affected joint. Mobilization does not create the audible release common with manipulations and is considered a less forceful approach.
Their differences are very subtle, but usage depends heavily on current inflammatory concerns, body weight, and any skeletal deformity. In addition to chiropractic adjustments, a chiropractor also utilizes a variety of techniques to alleviate inflammation in the sacroiliac joint and correct its movement. Other non-invasive, soothing therapies used by chiropractors to treat sacroiliac joint dysfunction include:
- Massage therapy
- Physical therapy
- Adjusting blocks
- Activator technique
- Electric Stimulation (E-Stim)
- Flexion-distraction technique
- Muscle relaxation techniques
- Muscle strengthening techniques
Seeking Help for Sacroiliac Joint Pain
Before you resort to another over-the-counter pain medication, it’s time you get to the bottom of your sacroiliac joint pain. Working alongside a trusted chiropractor, discover the source of your joint dysfunction, and which non-invasive, natural treatment is best for you.
At ChiroCare of Florida, our dedicated physicians will tailor a treatment plan to your specific needs. Relax knowing your physician understands your unique spinal structure and is administering therapies that will not only help to relieve pain and inflammation, but also help get your mobility back. What are you waiting for? Contact ChiroCare of Florida today to get started.