What Are the Sacroiliac (SI) Joints?
Located at the bottom part of the spine is the sacrum, which is made up of several vertebral bodies that are fused together. This triangle shape bone sits just above the tailbone (the coccyx). Connected to the sacrum is the ilium, the large broad bone that is located in the upper portion of the pelvis. Sacroiliac (SI) joints connect the sacrum to the left and right iliac bones.
The two sacroiliac joints are responsible for a person’s ability to stand upright and also act as shock absorbents. These small joints absorb forces from the upper body and are responsible for shifting weight from the lower back to the hips and legs. That will reduce pressure on the spine.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joints can become injured or inflamed, leading to Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction. This condition causes chronic pain and discomfort, often characterized by pain in the lower back, buttocks, groin, and legs. The pain can be present when standing up, walking, sitting, or sleeping making it difficult for a person to function normally in everyday life. SI Joint Dysfunction can be caused by many things including arthritis, gout, pregnancy, or injuries including falls or car accidents. This condition is responsible for many lower back pain complaints.
What Are SI Joint Injections?
Your sacroiliac (SI) joints connect your pelvis to your spine. These joints provide both flexibility and stability. However, when inflammation or other issues develop there, the result can be significant pain and problems with mobility. SI joint injections are injections of steroids and anesthetics that are applied to the SI joint by the pelvis. SI joint injections can be performed for two purposes: to control pain and to diagnose it.
When used as a diagnostic tool, an SI joint injection will be used to determine whether the SI joint is the source of the individual’s pain. If the injection provides relief, the pain source is diagnosed and a treatment plan can be created.
When used therapeutically, SI joint injections can often provide immediate relief from pain that is related to the SI joints.
How Are SI Joint Injections Performed?
Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Injections are an effective treatment for relieving lower back pain associated with SI Joint Dysfunction. The SI joint injections contain steroids and an anesthetic and actually serve a few purposes. First, by utilizing numbing medication injected into the joint, you will either feel immediate relief from the pain or the pain will continue. If you do feel immediate relief, then your pain management doctor will know they are treating the correct source of your pain.
SI joint injections are performed with the assistance of X-ray guidance. A contrast dye is injected once the needle is in place so that your doctor can see that the medication is spreading the way that it should. There are 2 types of sacroiliac joint injections: diagnostic and therapeutic.
For a diagnostic SI joint injection, a numbing medication is injected into the joint. Your doctor will then ask you to perform the movements that normally cause you pain. If you find that your pain is reduced or eliminated after the injection, this can lead to a diagnosis of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. More than one diagnostic injection may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
The procedure is the same for a therapeutic injection. However, a steroid is also injected along with the pain medication to provide relief from both pain and inflammation. Many people who have therapeutic SI joint injections experience immediate relief after the procedure. Your doctor may have you start physical therapy after you have had an injection in order to achieve a better range of movement and to help prevent a recurrence of your SI joint pain. If pain returns, you can have SI joint injections up to three times a year.
After the procedure, you may experience some weakness or numbness in the legs. This is temporary and is related to the anesthesia. Some people also experience a temporary increase in SI joint pain that goes away after a few days. Tenderness at the injection site is not uncommon; if this occurs, an ice pack can provide relief.
There is no cure for SI joint dysfunction, but SI joint injections do provide long-lasting relief. Injections are commonly used in a multidisciplinary approach which can include physical therapy and other treatment options for comprehensive treatment and improved results.
Conditions SI Joint Injections Can Treat
Sacroiliac joint injections can be used to treat a number of types of chronic lower back pain. SI joint dysfunction is a common condition treated with injections. However, because of the overlap in symptoms between SI joint dysfunction and other conditions, SI joint dysfunction can be difficult to diagnose.
SI joint pain can be the result of either a chronic condition or an acute injury. Researchers have found that SI joint pain is associated with a number of other conditions that include:
- Leg length discrepancies
- Abnormal gait or biomechanics
SI joint pain can be the result of repetitive stress, such as repeatedly squatting and standing while working. It is also a common symptom after a motor vehicle accident or a slip and fall injury.
The pain associated with SI joint problems is typically described as a diffuse pain throughout the lower back. Pain that radiates into the groin, legs, or buttocks is also common. It can affect your flexibility, strength, and balance.
Clearway Pain Solutions is experienced in utilizing a combination of treatments for pain conditions. Contact our expert team for a consultation to see if you are a candidate for sacroiliac joint injections.
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