What is SI Joint Dysfunction and is it the cause of my low back pain?

Mar8th 2017

SI Joint Dysfunction: One of the most common causes of back pain

We previously covered one of the biggest causes of back pain, Disc Herniation with Sciatica. If you have pain in your back that radiates down one of your legs, then you should take a look back at that post.

As a quick review, the 3 main causes of lower back pain are:

1. Disc Herniation, or disc bulge. Referred to by non-medical professionals as “slipped disc”

2. Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction, or problems in the pelvis

3. Stenosis, or arthritis of the spine

In this post, we’ll be covering number 2 on the list, low back pain due to SI Joint Dysfunction. We will define this condition, describe its typical symptoms, and then tell you simple ways to assess your low back pain. If the symptoms in this post do not sound like yours, you can come in for an evaluation with one of our doctors of physical therapy to determine what is causing your back pain.

SI Joint Dysfunction

The second most common cause of back pain is SI joint dysfunction or problems in your pelvis. You have two SI joints, one on each side of the low back, located where the top, flat part of your tail bone, as opposed to the bottom curvy part, meets your pelvic bones. People often have little indentations, or dimples, over the area of the SI joint in the very low part of their back. You can see the SI Joints shown in the picture below, noted with the 2 red squares.

SI joint pain is often located right over the SI joint on one or both sides of the body, but can also radiate into the buttock, groin, and down the thigh, similar to sciatica.

The development of SI joint dysfunction is most often associated with pregnancy, but can also develop after a fall onto the buttock, a misstep off of a curb, or any other asymmetrical movement or weakness in the pelvic, abdominal, or leg regions.

Functionally, people with SI joint issues may complain of difficulty performing movements that are one-sided, such as climbing stairs or stepping up onto a curb. They may feel a general malaise or dull ache throughout the buttock, hip, and groin region that is hard to define or explain. Often these people feel imbalanced, as though one leg is longer than the other, or they may notice that one leg turns out or in further than the other when standing, walking, or lying down.

SI joint issues resolve readily with conservative management including physical therapy and strengthening. Physical Therapists are experts at regaining alignment in the pelvis, addressing muscle strength imbalance, and improving functional mechanics to restore the balance between the two sides of the body. Many people with SI joint pain feel great relief just after one visit to a physical therapist, due to some specific manual techniques that can restore alignment to the pelvis almost immediately.

If you have any of the symptoms I discussed in this post, we would be happy to take care of you at MoveMend. Please call us at 206-641-7733 or schedule your first appointment online here.