Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction Causes and Symptoms

Causes of SI Joint Dysfunction

Your sacroiliac joints have a layer of cartilage over the bone, which is the case with most of the joints in your body. That cartilage plays an important role in your movement and acts like a shock absorber for the bones of the joints. If something happens to the cartilage, such as damage or wear with age, the bones in your joints rub together. This can cause degenerative arthritis, a common cause of SI joint dysfunction. Degenerative arthritis commonly occurs in weight-bearing joints such as the sacroiliac joint.

Pregnancy can also cause SI joint dysfunction. When you become pregnant, your body releases a hormone that relaxes your tendons in order to help your body prepare for childbirth. When the tendons in the SI joint relax, it increases motion in the joints, which can cause more wear and tear. Plus, the additional weight gains during pregnancy and the different walking pattern (waddling as your belly grows) also places more stress on your SI joints.

Along with pregnancy, any condition that changes the way you walk can cause SI joint dysfunction. This could be issue such as:

  • Differences in leg length (one is longer than the other)
  • Pain in your other joints that causes you to walk differently
  • Pain in your lower extremities

For most patients, if the root cause of their pain is addressed, the issues with the SI joint resolve themselves.

Your SI joint can also become inflamed and cause pain in the lower back. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, gout, ankylosing spondylitis, and psoriasis can create inflammation in the joint. Ankylosing spondylitis is specific to the SI joint while the others can create issues in any joint in your body. As these conditions go on, they can cause your SI joints to fuse together and diminish or completely negate your range of motion in the joint. When this happens, there is usually no more pain associated with the joint.

Symptoms of Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Patients most commonly experience pain with SI joint dysfunction. It usually occurs in the lower back or in the hips, though it might also occur in the groin and thighs. It’s often worse when you walk or stand and is eased when you lie down. Some patients experience a burning sensation in their pelvis. Sometimes, SI joint dysfunction can be difficult to diagnose. Your spine specialist will take you through a diagnostic process to determine the source of your pain.

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