What is Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction?

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction (SIJD) is impaired and unstable movement of the pelvis resulting from loosening of ligaments in the small of the back.

The sacral spine joins with the pelvis by way of stabilizing ligaments. When these ligaments become loose, gravity, everyday movements, bumps and bruises, and injury can lead to misalignment of the pelvis. In some cases, the pelvis can become “locked” in a non-neutral position.

Excessive pelvic motion in the (a, above) frontal and (b, below) transverse planes

Common causes of sacroiliac joint dysfunction include:

  • falling
  • vehicle accidents
  • incorrect lifting of objects
  • childbirth

Should I suspect SI joint dysfunction (SIJD)?

SI joint dysfunction can lead to pains such as:

  • lower back pain
  • buttock pain
  • pain radiating to the leg
  • hip pain
  • groin pain
  • numbness, prickling or tingling
  • leg weakness

Notably, some SIJD symptoms resemble those of pelvic floor disorder:

  • Urinary frequency
  • Increased pain with menstruation
  • Increased pain with sexual intercourse

Patients also report pain from walking upstairs or pain after sitting, lying, or standing for a while. Ultimately, correct diagnosis requires careful testing and assessment because other musculoskeletal conditions may be the cause.

Will I Get SIJD?

Among people with lower back pain, about 25 percent of them will suffer from sacroiliac joint dysfunction.  Those with a history of the following are at risk of developing it:

  • degenerative disc disease
  • pregnancy
  • hormonal imbalance
  • occupation
  • genes affecting joint surface

How physical therapy helps

The goal of physical therapy for sacroiliac joint dysfunction is generally threefold:

  • pain relief and joint realignment
  • compression stabilization to address joint hypermobility
  • strength stabilization

A misaligned pelvic girdle stresses ligaments and other soft tissue in the lower back and hip area. In contrast, realignment of the lumbar spine and pelvic girdle allows ligaments to heal. Combinations of the following help patients achieve the best possible outcomes:

  • stabilization belt
  • manual therapy in the form of joint mobilization
  • education
  • kinesiotaping
  • supervised therapeutic exercise
  • home exercise
  • self-mobilization techniques