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Diagnosing Sacroiliac Joint Pain

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The sacroiliac (SI) joints are located on each side of the sacrum at the bottom of your spine, and connect your sacrum with the pelvic bone. These joints are small and have minimal motion, however, they are very strong as they are reinforced by strong surrounding ligaments. The purpose of these joints is to act as shock-absorbing structures as they transmit the forces of your upper body to your pelvis and legs.

In many cases, low back and/or leg pain is thought to be the result of any dysfunction in the SI joint. The characteristics of SI joint pain may be similar to those related to sciatica or disc herniation pain, making diagnosis of this condition more difficult.

Getting an Accurate Diagnosis

Despite advances in health care, SI joint pain remains difficult to diagnose as associated symptoms mimic other common conditions. Also, many physicians have not been trained to consider the SI joint as the cause of low back pain, and others have reluctance to believe that a joint with very minimal movement can cause pain.

If you are troubled with low back pain, it may be best to consider a referral to a pain management physician as they are specifically trained to perform various orthopedic tests during an examination to determine the cause of your pain.

If you experience pain during these tests, it is typically an indication that your SI joints may be the cause. If the tests are inconclusive, an additional step can be taken to diagnose your pain.

The next step is more invasive, but it can indeed determine if your pain is related to these joints. A pain management physician will inject anesthetic blocks specifically to your SI joint. The purpose of the injection is to numb the pain. If you get relief from this injection, that pinpoints the SI joint as the cause of your pain. This is now becoming the gold standard in diagnosing this condition.

Treating Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Seeing a pain management physician for treatment can be most beneficial to you as they are knowledgeable about the various treatment methods used for this condition. They understand that no two people respond to pain in the same manner, therefore, you will have an individualized pain management plan tailored to meet your specific pain management goals.

Initially, the first SI joint pain treatment is typically rest and the use of an ice/cold pack. If you continue to experience long term effects related to SI joint pain conservative treatments can be initiated. This may include the use of various medications, physical therapy, or SI joint belts. If conservative treatments are not effective in relieving your pain, your pain management physician can discuss further options with you, such as SI joint fusion or SI joint injections for pain management.