Many patients who come in with lower back pain don’t even realize that the sacroiliac joint, or SI joint, can be a major contributor. One common dysfunction we see here at OSA is a slipped SI joint. This article will explain what a slipped sacroiliac joint is, what its symptoms are, and how it is treated.
The SI Joint
To begin, let’s look at the SI joint itself. The SI joint is the point where the sacrum, the bottom part of the spine, connects to the ileum, the pelvic bone. This joint is rather stationary, and functions more as a shock absorber than as a site for lots of mobility. This is what makes it so problematic when injury or chronic conditions cause a slipped SI joint.
What is a Slipped SI Joint?
The term ‘slipped SI joint’ is a bit misleading. The term has come to refer to just about any dysfunction of the SI joint. The two primary issues that typically plague the joint are hypermobility, where the joint moves too much, and hypomobility, in which the joint doesn’t move enough. Both conditions can cause serious problems.
Too much mobility of the SI joint can cause issues because it strains the ligaments that hold the pelvis and spine together. When the joint moves too much, these ligaments can be stretched or torn. This will naturally lead to pain and dysfunction of the joint.
Hypermobility of the SI joint can cause sharp, acute pain. This type of dysfunction can be the result of a number of things, including:
- Repetitive intense exercise
Typically, people with this type of SI joint dysfunction will feel it on one side of the lower back.
The second type of dysfunction, hypomobility, comes about in different ways. Hypomobility occurs when the joint locks. This can occur because of degenerative joint disease or even simple wear and tear that occurs with aging.
Both conditions have very similar symptoms, including:
- Lower back pain
- Hip pain
- Pain in the legs
- A feeling of instability
One of the reasons both conditions manifest in much the same way is that hypomobility is often just a later stage of hypermobility. When a patient has a slipped SI joint due to too much movement, it can cause normal wear and tear to occur quicker than it would otherwise. This can lead to the joint eventually locking up, resulting in hypomobility.
Treatment and Next Steps
If you suspect that you are dealing with a slipped SI joint, you should seek the help of a knowledgeable medical professional. A well trained doctor will preform the right tests to ensure that your SI joint is in fact the cause of your symptoms.
If your SI joint is the culprit, your treatment will most likely involve a variety of strategies. Rest allows the joint to heal, and ice and heat may reduce pain and inflammation in the effected area. Pain medication may also be necessary, though this should be discussed with your doctor.
Physical therapy can be helpful in strengthening the muscles of the lower back and hips, which can help stabilize the joint. In addition, physical therapy can help regain flexibility in the SI joint in patients with hypomobility.
In some extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to alleviate pain. This should be used only as a last resort, and you should discuss other options with your health care provider before going through with this treatment.
If you think you may be suffering from a slipped SI joint, reach out and contact us. Our team of medical professionals can help decide on proper treatments and get you back to being pain-free. If you’d like to consult with Dr. Atwater, our spine specialist, please request an appointment online, or give us a call.