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Sacroiliac Joint Pain: An Overview

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The sacroiliac joints, on either side of the spine, are located at the very bottom of the back. These joints sit between the sacrum, or vertebrae S1-S5 and the Ilia, or hip bones. They help make up the rear part of the pelvic girdle.

The sacroiliac joints are also called the “SI” joints. Their function is to allow the twisting, or torsional movements when we move our legs. Without these joints, in combination with the pubic symphesis (which are at the front of the pelvis) the pelvis would be at higher risk of fracture when the legs, which act as levers, move about.

It is difficult to evaluate and treat problems with sacroiliac joint pain and dysfunction due to the complexity of the anatomy in this area. However, it is widely understood that sacroiliac injuries, also called “SIJ dysfunction” refers to either hypo (low) or hyper (high) mobility.

This means that the joints can become either too locked into place or too mobile, causing problems in surrounding ligaments and muscles. This means that the lower back, buttocks, and even the groin may be affected by issues to pertaining to this area.

The symptoms of SIJ dysfunction are as follows:

* Pain, ranging from an ache to a sharp pain, located either to the left or right of your lower back. It can actually restrict movement.

* Difficulty dressing, bending over to tie shoes and even put them on, difficulty turning over in bed, difficulty getting legs in and out of the car.

* Radiating pain which spreads into your buttocks and low back and even to the front into the groin. It can sometimes be responsible for pain in the testicles among males.

* Occasionally it may be mistaken for sciatica, due to pain in the lower limb.

* There may be lower back stiffness after sitting for long periods of time or when driving long distances. Aching to one side of your lower back when driving long distances.

* There may be tenderness on palpating the ligaments which surround the joint.

The causes of Sacroiliac joint pain can be split into four categories:
Inflammatory joint disease


The traumatic SIJ injuries are caused by sudden impact which ‘jolts’ the joint, such as if you are thrown from a horse and land square on your buttocks. An injury of this nature can cause damage to the ligaments supporting the joint.


If the pain is due to biomedical causes, the injuries can take some time to manifest. They may show up during a period of increased activity or a change in sport or occupation. The most common biomedical causes include:
leg length discrepancy
twisted pelvis
and muscle imbalances


Hormonal changes can also cause sacroiliac pain. Especially during pregnancy, hormonal changes which occur for the purpose of preparing the body to deliver a baby, the ligaments of the pelvis will increase in laxity. If this is combined with weight gain, the pressure put on the spine can lead to painful mechanical changes in this area.

Inflammatory Joint Disease

The most spine affecting inflammatory conditions are Spondyloarthropathis. These include Ankylosing Spondvlities which is the leading inflammatory condition to cause SI joint pain.


1)Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction. (SI Joint Pain) MedicineNet.com. Retrieved from the internet on December 19, 2011. http://www.medicinenet.com/sacroiliac_joint_pain/article.htm

2)“Sacroiliac Joint Pain”with advice from John Williams registered Osteopath and Sports Injury Therapist. Sports Injury Clinic. Retrieved from the internet on December 19, 2011.

Reviewed December 19, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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