Navigating SI Joint Pain
The sacroiliac (SI) joint is a lesser-known joint in the body that plays a significant role in movement. The SI joint forms where the sacrum meets the ilium, one of the hip bones. SI joints contain nerves, powerful ligaments, and tissue that helps with stability. Should the joint become inflamed, lower back pain, pelvic pain, sciatica, numbness, and weakness can occur. A doctor may suggest SI joint injection or a nerve block for some patients. Both treatments take different approaches to treating sacroiliac pain, but achieve the same outcome.
What causes joint pain?
More and more people are developing SI joint pain due to osteoarthritis, the general wear and tear of the joint. The joint helps with shifting weight when walking or sitting. Since the average adult spends more time sitting now than ever before, SI joint pain is on the rise. The pain often radiates on one side due to poor posture while sitting or standing. Other reasons for sacroiliac pain include obesity, pregnancy, a previous back injury, or ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Studies estimate that 1 in 3 back pain patients may have SI joint damage.
Possible treatment options
An orthopedic surgeon or spinal specialist can help diagnose sacroiliac pain through physical exams and image tests. Patients then receive a treatment plan that may include pain medication, muscle relaxers, and physical therapy. Improving the strength and flexibility of the joint is particularly important. For acute pain, hot and cold temperature therapy can reduce inflammation. If these more conservative treatments fail, there are procedures that directly target the issue.
Time for an injection?
An SI joint injection provides a combination of a local anesthetic and steroid medication directly to the joint. This treatment is non-invasive and takes just a few minutes. The medical team uses x-ray imaging to guide the needle to the sacroiliac joint. Once the medicine is administered, the patient may feel immediate pain relief. SI joint injections can reduce pain for several months but also serve as a diagnostic tool. The doctor can confirm if SI joint inflammation is the source of the pain.
Calm those nerves
A nerve block uses a different mechanism but achieves the same overall goal. These injections seek to disrupt the nerve signals from the SI joint to the brain. This treatment can provide long-lasting relief from chronic pain or reduce nerve-related symptoms like sciatica. Neve blocks follow the same process and take about the same amount of time as joint injections. Like SI joint injections, nerve blocks also serve as a diagnostic tool.
One or both?
Sacroiliac pain can cause extreme discomfort, pain, and weakness, especially if left untreated. The goal of joint injections or nerve blocks is to target the source of pain and provide temporary relief. These injections can last several months. The treatments can also both indicate if the patient will require surgery in the future. Patients do not need both types of injection. The doctor will choose the procedure that is thought to provide the best possible outcome.