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Understanding SI Joint Dysfunction


SI joint dysfunction refers to lack of normal function in one or both of the sacroiliac (SI) joints. The SI joints are joints that connect the sacrum at the base of your spine to the iliac bones on each side of your pelvis. The role of these joints is to transfer weight from your spine to your lower body and support upright sitting and standing positions. 

Pain caused by SI joint dysfunction can be felt in the spine, low back, buttocks, pelvis, groin, or in the thighs. It can even cause sciatica-like symptoms. So as you can imagine, SI joint dysfunction can be difficult to diagnose. Therefore, it is important to consult with your physician and healthcare team to determine if SI joint dysfunction is the root of your pain.


What causes SI joint dysfunction?

The SI joint provides stability to your lower back and pelvis. Unlike other joints in the human body, there is very little movement in the SI joint. Therefore, too much mobility (hypermobility) or too little mobility (hypomobility) can cause dysfunction and pain.

SI joint dysfunction can also result from:

  • Degeneration of the SI joint
  • Inflammation from sickness or arthritic conditions
  • Trauma to the SI joint
    • Falling onto your bottom or hips
    • Car accident
    • Giving birth


What does SI joint dysfunction feel like? 

The most common symptom is pain in the low back, pelvis, buttocks, and/or thigh. Sometimes the pain starts in the low back and spreads down to the buttocks or thigh. Patients often describe the pain as dull and aching. It usually occurs on one side of the body, but can also occur on both sides. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Sciatica symptoms (sharp, burning, shooting, or numbness/tingling). Read more about sciatica on the blog here
  • Instability (feeling that your pelvis is slipping out of place)
  • Stiffness (feeling that your low back or pelvis is stuck)
  • Reduced range of motion in low back and hips
  • Difficulty walking up stairs, running/jogging, or sleeping on one side


How do you treat SI joint dysfunction? 

The diagnosis for SI joint dysfunction will be made after a thorough physical examination, provocation tests, and sometimes an injection to rule out nerve pain.

Most treatment for SI joint dysfunction is conservative, meaning it can be treated with non-surgical methods, like exercise and physical therapy. 

One or more of the following conservative treatment options may be considered by your doctor and you:

  • A brief period of rest (2-3 days) may be indicated. However, resting too long can actually increase stiffness.
  • Pain medications and injections may be prescribed by your doctor depending on the severity and longevity of your pain.
  • Physical therapy will focus on restoring normal function and mobility of the SI joint, thereby reducing pain and discomfort.
  • Manipulation by a chiropractor, physical therapist, or other qualified healthcare professional may help with stiffness and hypomobility. 
  • Braces may be prescribed to provide stability and pain relief in the case of hypermobility of the SI joint. These braces are usually the size of a large waist belt and wrap around your low back. They can usually be worn underneath your clothing.


We have the brace you need

SI joint braces assist in reaching these treatment goals. Examples of back braces that treat SI joint pain are the Evergreen™ 621 SI Belt, and the EXOS® FORM™ II 621

We’re here to help answer your questions about which back braces can be used to treat your condition. Contact us today to learn more.

Written by Dr. Jenny Hunnicutt

Dr. Jenny Hunnicutt is a licensed athletic trainer with a PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science. As the owner of Hunnicutt Writing and Consulting, LLC, she collaborates with global institutions, spearheading innovation and research among professionals and businesses in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. Learn more at https://drhunnicutt.com.