SI Joint Pain

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Is Osteoarthritis to Blame for Your SI Joint Pain?

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of degenerative joint disease. It can have a serious effect on either one or the other or both of the SI (sacroiliac) joints that support the spine and connect it to the pelvis. Osteoarthritis breaks down the cartilage that lines the SI joints. This creates friction and undue wear on the joints themselves. Osteoarthritis is a major contributor to long term SI joint dysfunction and the ensuing pain.

Understanding Osteoarthritis as a Cause of SI Joint Pain

In order to understand how osteoarthritis can impact the SI joints, it is useful to take a look at where the joints are and how they are designed to perform. The sacroiliac joints form at the points where the sacrum region of the spine and the two ilium (hip) bones meet, one on the left and one on the right side of the spine. The two ilium bones are the major structures of the pelvis. The SI joints play a major role in supporting the upper body and helping to transmit motion through the hips and legs. There are several components to the SI joints, each of which is subject to uneven pressures that can cause friction, inflammation, and long term wear and tear.

The SI joints are basically opposing bony surfaces covered by cartilage and bound together by extremely strong ligaments. By design, SI joints have a narrow range of movement. Any damage to the cartilage of the SI joints makes them susceptible to the erosive effects of osteoarthritis.

In osteoarthritis, the cartilage that lines the SI joints wears down. Without proper cushioning and lubrication, the continual rubbing of the bony surfaces of the joint inhibits movement, generates pain, and promotes the growth of bone spurs. One of the primary factors in the development of osteoarthritis is aging and the repetitive motion over a long period of time that comes with it. A corollary factor in the development of debilitative osteoarthritis is excessive weight. Obesity can exert a force up to five times a person’s body weight on joints.

Osteoarthritis creates a condition known as hypo-mobility of the joint. Hypo-mobility simply means low movement. The ligaments that hold the SI joints together tighten and lose elasticity. With its destruction of cartilage and tendency to bone spurs, osteoarthritis can cause the joint to freeze or lock up, inhibiting motion and generating subsequent pain. This can also cause irritation to the surrounding tendons and ligaments.

SI joint pain can express itself on either the left or right side of the lower back. SI joint dysfunction can produce pain in the buttocks, groin, and thighs as well.

Spinal osteoarthritis is a fairly common condition, affecting millions of people worldwide. Wear and tear of the joints leading to the degeneration of some cartilage is considered a normal part of the aging process. However, if you are experiencing symptoms, it is still important to be monitored by a spine health expert. Early diagnosis and treatment of lumbar osteoarthritis can slow progression of the disease, relieve low back pain, and help to restore healthy joint function.



Tips for Preventing and Managing SI Joint Pain at Home


  • Regular stretching and exercise can help prevent and ease low back pain.
  • When lifting heavy objects, use your legs for leverage, not your back.
  • Walk cautiously and wear shoes with good traction when walking on slippery surfaces.
  • When carrying something, be sure to distribute its weight evenly, not favoring one side.
  • Consult a spine specialist for severe low back pain that hasn’t resolved with conservative methods in a few weeks.

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