What is a Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2018
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The sacrum is a small bone toward the bottom of the spine that is next to part of the ilium, the large pelvic bone. The two bones are connected via the sacroiliac joint, on either side of the spine. When sacroiliac dysfunction occurs, it’s not exactly clear what dysfunction is occurring in the joint, but it does result in mild to severe lower back pain and other symptoms.

A number of symptoms may be noted with this condition. People might have pain in the lower back or the buttocks. There can also be pain in the thigh, usually one leg only, and the pain may radiate down the leg like sciatica. Weakness or numbness in one leg may occur and sitting for long periods of time can get very uncomfortable.

Causes of sacroiliac joint dysfunction can be complex and numerous. First, the joint itself tends to tighten or lock during aging, but in women who have multiple pregnancies it may loosen. Potentially either too loose or too tight of a joint may predispose people to more injury to the joint, or joint injury may create arthritis and cause tightness.


Diagnosis of this condition involves physical examination, which might include some compression or attempts to pull at the body in the way that activates the joint. Doctors also use a list of patient’s symptoms to see if sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a possible cause. When needed, x-rays or CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan could be performed.

There are several different options for treatment of sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and two of these are again juxtaposed. Doctors may recommend special exercises to increase the flexibility and mobility of the joint, or they might suggest that the joint be moved as little as possible. In one method patients might be given some easy back exercises, while in the other they may use a back brace or waist brace to keep the joint in place. If needed prescription or over the counter pain medications, especially anti-inflammatory drugs, might be suggested. It should be noted that some people seek assistance from a doctor for this condition and others get help from a chiropractor, in which case they cannot get prescription pain relievers.

Sometimes this condition does not respond very well to non-surgical treatment, and pain in the joint (and surrounding it) becomes unbearable. When this severe form of sacroiliac joint dysfunction occurs, surgery might be necessary. Surgery does lock the joint in place by fusing the bones together. This does not always fully resolve pain, and most doctors prefer first attempting to treat sacroiliac joint dysfunction with non-surgical methods.



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