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Sometimes the culprit in low back pain is the joint that connects the bottom of the spine to the pelvis. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction causes an estimated 25 percent to 50 percent of low back pain.
If you’ve tried physical therapy, pain medication, and injections and still suffer from low back pain, pain in the buttock, groin, and/or leg, you may have SI Joint dysfunction. SI joint pain tends to be under diagnosed and under treated because it can mimic pain arising from the lower spine.
Named for the two body parts they connect, the sacroiliac joints join the sacrum (the triangular bone at the bottom of the spine) to the ilium, or pelvic bone, on each side of the body.
The shape of the pelvis resembles a catcher’s mitt, which matches up with the job of the SI joints—to “catch” and bear the weight and stress of the body as the joints absorb shock and provide stability to the whole body.
Problems in the sacroiliac joint can lead to persistent low back pain. You also may experience symptoms including:
Disease. Having arthritis puts you at risk for problems with your SI joint.
Repetitive stress from heavy lifting, work or sports can damage the joint.
Injury. The joint can get injured from a fall, car accident or minor trauma—usually directly impacting the tailbone.
Postpartum. SI problems may occur after pregnancy if the ligaments that support the joint stay loose after stretching during pregnancy and delivery. When loose ligaments allow too much mobility in the SI joint, it can feel unstable and women may have pain in their hips, groin, legs, and/or buttocks, as well as low back pain.
Previous surgery. One of the most common causes of SI joint dysfunction is previous lumbar fusion. When part of the spine is immobilized, it may cause the SI joint to move more than what it should and that begins to cause pain. SI joint dysfunction can occur as soon as just a couple of years after lower back fusion.
Abnormal anatomy. SI joint problems can be caused by scoliosis, one leg that is longer than the other, or an atypical way of walking, leading to pain in the hips, groin, and legs and/or low back pain.
To provide relief of low back pain and other symptoms and bring stability to the SI joint, non-surgical treatments for SI joint dysfunction include:
Surgery may be an option if you have tried non-surgical treatments for at least six months and they are not providing pain relief. To find out if SI joint fusion surgery could be a solution for you, consult with a spine surgeon who specializes in SI joint dysfunction.
Our specially trained spine experts at Littleton Adventist Hospital now perform SI joint fusion through a minimally invasive procedure that requires just three small incisions and involves no cutting of muscles or ligaments.
More than 80 percent of patients report satisfaction with SI joint fusion surgery, experiencing significant pain relief and an improved quality of life. After surgery, people typically leave the hospital within a day or two and return to work within four to six weeks.
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