The sacroiliac, or SI, joint connects the sacrum at the base of the spine to the pelvis. You have one joint on either side of the sacrum. The joint is responsible for the following:
If the joint is dysfunctional, it can be extremely stiff or abnormally mobile. This can cause pain on one side of the lower back. SI problems cause up to 25 percent of lower back pain. This joint becomes looser in pregnant women. Women who are expecting or who have recently given birth are more likely to experience SI joint issues.
People can experience SI joint problems due to muscle stiffness, muscle imbalances, hip problems, some kinds of arthritis, injury or hormonal changes. Whether the dysfunction is caused by stiffness or excess mobility in the joint, symptoms include the following:
Seeing a physical therapist can help you determine if your SI joint is the cause of your symptoms. You’ll be asked several questions about your experience. Be ready to indicate exactly where you feel the pain and if certain physical movements make it better or worse.
The medical professional will examine your spine, hip, pelvis and legs. This will help the professional evaluate your agility and flexibility. The strength of the muscles in your lower body will also be assessed. Specific tests may be conducted to ensure that you don’t have a different medical problem.
A physical therapist with experience treating this condition can help reestablish function in the SI joint. Physical therapy often includes the following:
Manual rehabilitation – This involves massage or releasing points in the soft tissue to help reduce tightness and realign the pelvis. Your therapist may also gently manipulate the joint to help it move more efficiently.
Stretching – Increasing the suppleness of the muscles around the joint can help the spine and pelvis work together better and decrease strain at the SI joint.
Strengthening – Building up the muscles around the spine and pelvis can ease pain and pressure placed on the ligaments. It can also help balance weak muscles.
Posture – You can learn how to move your body more efficiently during your daily routines to improve the condition.
Modalities – This involves using thermal, electrical or mechanical energy to relieve pain. It can entail using ice packs, heating pads or electrical stimulation.
Stabilizers – A specialized belt that supports the joints in the pelvis may be worn to make the pelvis more stable as you go about your day. Pregnant women especially may benefit from using an SI belt.
SI joint dysfunction can be preventable at times. Avoiding falls and maintaining proper alignment can help the joint work properly. Keeping your muscles balanced and dexterous can also prevent this condition. If you have experienced an SI joint problem, keeping up with exercises recommended by a medical professional can help prevent you from experiencing the problem again.