What Is Sacroiliitis & Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction? Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options
Sacroiliitis refers to the inflammation of one or both sacroiliac joints of the spinal column – the areas where the lower spine connects with the pelvis. It has been associated with a group of conditions that cause spinal inflammatory arthritis.
It may be a feature of other types of arthritis like Crohn’s disease, osteoarthritis or ulcerative arthritis.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction causes lower back pain and pain in the buttocks and sometimes, pain may extend down to either or both legs. Sacroiliitis is difficult to diagnose as it can be confused with lower back pain. Pain is often worsened by stair climbing or continuous standing.
Sometimes sacroiliitis is used interchangeably with sacroiliac joint dysfunction as they are both used to describe pain originating from the sacroiliac joint.
Sacroiliitis refers to the inflammation of the sacroiliac joint; “itis” is used to describe inflammation.
However, the inflammation doesn’t necessarily have to be caused by sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is the pain in your sacroiliac area, often caused by abnormal motion in the joint. The motion can be too little or excessive to cause pain. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction usually leads to sacroiliitis.
Signs and Symptoms of Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
- Pain usually occurs in the lower back or buttocks, however, one or both of your legs or feet and your groin may be affected as well.
Sacroiliitis is often worsened by the following actions:
- Prolonged standing
- Taking large strides
- Stair climbing
- Not bearing equal weight on both legs i.e. the weight on one leg is more than the other
Causes of Sacroiliitis include:
- Physical trauma. A fall, motor vehicle accident or any form of sudden impact can harm your sacroiliac joints
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (an arthritis of the spine), amongst others can cause sacroiliac joint dysfunction
- Infection. Although rare, a sacroiliac joint dysfunction can occur when the joint is infected
- Pregnancy. The sacroiliac joints stretch and loosen to allow childbirth. Furthermore, the added weight and the mother’s altered gait while she is pregnant may add more stress on the sacroiliac joint
Treatment of Sacroiliitis
A patient’s prime aim is to seek treatment for the pain caused by sacroiliitis because it is the only symptom that affects his or her lifestyle.
Your health care provider will recommend the following conservative treatment methods to ease pain:
- Rest. Rest is the most important form of treatment that you need to keep in mind if you intend to improve your condition. Maintain proper posture and avoid activities that aggravate pain and inflammation. Ideally, you’ll be instructed to use a SI Joint Belt such as the Serola Sacroiliac Belt, which provides an adjustable level of compression and helps relieve pain while you perform everyday activities that you cannot avoid while you recover.
- Ice therapy. Apply an ice bag on the affected region to ease pain and inflammation. Do this every 3 hours for about 15 minutes per session.
- Special exercises. Your physiotherapist will teach you a few exercises and techniques to de-stress the inflamed regions.
- OTC medications. Your doctor will also recommend taking OTC NSAIDs such as ibuprofen to ease pain and inflammation.
- Other therapies. Your doctor will employ a wide range of treatment methods and tools to alleviate pain and inflammation, some of which include acupuncture, soft tissue massage, ice therapy, electrotherapy and de-loading techniques for inflammation. You may have to use a mobility aid such as a crutch or cane for a short period until symptoms improve.
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