Sacroiliac Joint Pain and Dysfunction – The Facts


Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction and Pain

Doctor pointing to Sacroiliac Joint on skeleton
Jan-Otto/Getty Images

Your sacroiliac joint is a minimally moveable joint that connects the lowest part of the spine—a bone called the “sacrum”—to the back of the pelvic bones. The sacrum wedges in between the two pelvic bones, contributing greatly to spinal stability.

When the sacroiliac joint moves out of alignment, or when inflammation affects it, dysfunction and/or pain may result. These two processes are different from one another: When the joint is out of alignment, the result is excessive movement, a potential stretching of the ligaments that cross the joint, and pain. When inflammation affects the SI joint, it’s usually a result of a type of arthritis that affects you systemically. Key symptoms of this type are pain, stiffness, and immobility.


Why Getting an Accurate Diagnosis is Key to Healing Your SI

Doctor scrutinizes x-ray for lesions.

It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis of any sacroiliac joint pain or dysfunction you may experience. This is especially true if you've been offered surgery as a treatment option. The reason is that surgery tends to make permanent changes, so most likely, you'll want to be sure the pain you feel is truly coming from this joint before agreeing to the procedure.

Plus, historically speaking, SI joint surgeries can have risks of complications.

On top of this, accurately pinpointing the SI joint (and not somewhere in the lumbar spine) as the cause of the pain tends to be challenging. Few diagnostic tests exist that definitely indicate when the SI joint is the cause of the pain.  


Treatments for Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Back brace

A number of treatments for SI joint pain and dysfunction exist - including chiropractic care, bracing, surgery and more that offer varying degrees of effectiveness and safety. As mentioned above, it's imperative to first make sure your diagnosis is accurate. This may mean you'll need to ask your healthcare provider the hard questions and/or get a second or even third opinion to be sure of what you're working with when you try treatments that are either suggested or that you're interested in.

To get the scoop on seven of the most common SI joint treatments and what medical research says about them, click on the link above. Included in the 7 treatments are chiropractic, medications, radiofrequency denervation and several others. I'll give you a heads up, though - Sacroiliac Braces fared pretty well when studied, and patients like them a lot, too. 


Low - Tech SI Joint Pain Relieving Moves

A woman exercises her adductor muscles.

Dealing with SI pain can be challenging for practitioners or patients,regardless of the type of medicine practiced. If you're being treated within the allopathic (i.e., conventional) medical system, one reason for this challenge is explored above (#2).

The other challenge is that the balance of all the bones in the area must be considered during the treatment of SI joint dysfunction. This takes a lot of anatomy knowledge plus much experience working with the structures of the low back. It's usually not as simple as doing a yoga or Pilates class although these systems have formed the basis for certain therapeutic approaches that have gained popularity in the last few decades.

So while many types of treatment may be recommended for your SI joint dysfunction, movement or exercise - may play a key role in relieving some of your pain. 

If you go to physical therapy, you see a holistic practitioner, or you engage with moves that are believed to be soothing to an out of alignment SI joint, there's another reason. 

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.