Your sacroiliac (SI) joints connect your spine to your hips. Though not very flexible, your SI joints help you bend forward and back and act as shock absorbers when your body is in motion.
Like other joints in your body, an injury or arthritis may affect the structure and function of your SI joints and cause pain. Unfortunately, SI joint pain feels a lot like lower back pain or hip pain and is often misdiagnosed.
At Advanced Interventional Pain Management, with offices in Texarkana, Hot Springs, Little Rock, El Dorado, Arkadelphia, and Mena, Arkansas, we’re experts at finding and treating the root cause of your pain condition.
Our pain management specialists, Dr. Jacob Abraham and Dr. Ryan Stuckey, see many patients with concerns about back pain that turns out to be SI joint dysfunction.
Here, we want to share with you what we know about SI joint dysfunction as a potential cause of your back pain, and how we evaluate and treat SI joint pain.
SI joint dysfunction and back pain
Your SI joints sit just below your waist at the top of your buttocks and create the two dimples found at the lowest point of your back. The bones of the joints are held in place by strong ligaments and muscles and separated by cartilage.
SI joint pain may occur from an acute injury or degenerative changes that occur in the joint as you get older. Though pain symptoms vary, most people experience discomfort in their lower back or buttocks that radiates down into the leg on one side of the body.
Given the symptoms, it’s not too surprising that doctors misdiagnose SI joint dysfunction as a back pain condition like a herniated disc or sciatica. It’s estimated that 15-30% of people with complaints of lower back pain suffer from SI joint dysfunction.
Diagnosing SI joint pain
When it comes to treating any pain condition, it’s essential to know the root cause of your pain, which is why our pain management doctors run specific tests to confirm or rule out the exact source of your pain.
When you come in for an evaluation, we perform a physical exam and ask detailed questions about your pain and the activities that make it worse. If we suspect an SI joint is the source of your pain, we closely examine and manipulate the joint to look for areas of tenderness.
We also perform imaging tests to evaluate your SI joint, hips, and lower back.
However, to diagnose SI joint dysfunction, we perform a diagnostic SI joint injection. During the in-office procedure, we inject a local anesthetic and corticosteroid into the joint using X-ray fluoroscopy.
We then evaluate your pain level about 20-30 minutes after the injection and have you track your pain over the course of the following week. We definitively diagnose SI joint dysfunction as the source of your back pain if you experience a significant reduction (75%) in pain one week after the injection.
Treating SI joint pain
Once we know that the SI joint is the source of your back pain, we can take steps to help you get long-term relief. Treatment for SI joint dysfunction may depend on the cause of your pain condition and the severity of your symptoms.
Initially, we may take a conservative approach and recommend anti-inflammatory medication, topical pain patches, and physical therapy. However, if your SI joint pain fails to improve with medical intervention, we may repeat your SI joint injection or perform a radiofrequency SI joint nerve ablation. In this procedure , the tiny nerves going to the SIJ are cauterized with radiofrequency and may provide pain relief for 6-12 months.
Low back pain is common, but your back may not always be the source of your discomfort. As pain management experts, we can identify the source of your pain and provide treatments that give you long-term relief.
Call one of our offices that’s convenient to you or request an appointment online to schedule your evaluation.