Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction Diagnosis and Treatments

Diagnosing SI Joint Dysfunction

In order to diagnose sacroiliac joint dysfunction, you’ll need to go through a physical examination with our spine specialists and provide them with a complete medical history. Your doctor might ask questions to pinpoint what’s causing your pain and determine whether the pain is being caused by your SI joints, your hips, or your lower back. The specialist will work to determine if there is another condition causing your pain as well. Your spine specialist might move your hips and legs into different positions and apply pressure in order to determine the source of your pain. They’ll work to make sure it’s not something else causing your painful symptoms.

The next step in the diagnostic process is often a round of x-rays along with an MRI or CT scan. These imaging methods give your spine specialist a more detailed look at your joints and bones, helping the specialist diagnose conditions such as sacroiliitis or sclerosis. The specialist can also see any degeneration in the bones that could be causing your pain. An MRI will show details of the soft tissues in the joints like tendons and ligaments as well as the surrounding muscles. MRIs are useful for diagnosing excessive fluid in the joints. Additionally, your doctor might recommend a bone scan that can pinpoint abnormalities in the bone, such as arthritis, tumors, or fractures.

One of the most accurate ways to reach a diagnosis of SI joint dysfunction is an SI joint injection. The doctor will use an x-ray to ensure he or she is injecting directly into the SI joint. The injection is typically a combination of a steroid and an anesthetic in order to relieve your pain and reduce the inflammation. How long the relief lasts varies from patient to patient, but the main use of the SI joint injection is to help the doctor determine the source of your discomfort.

Treatment Options For SI Joint Dysfunction

Non-Operative Treatment for Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction can cause significant lower back pain. Fortunately, there are many options to help relieve the pain.

  • Avoid any activity that causes the pain
  • Alternating heat/cold therapy during the first 24-48 hours
  • Pain Medication: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like Advil or Aleve, muscle relaxers and on rare occasions narcotic painkillers
  • Physical therapy exercises to include: stretching, strengthening and massage.
  • Interventional pain injections – sacroiliac steroid or block injections

Sacroiliac Joint Pain Management Procedures

Our pain management doctors can use a steroid or a nerve block injection to help diagnose and relieve some of your SI joint pain. If the SI joint injection provides some pain relief but it comes back, your doctor might recommend doing a radiofrequency ablation procedure. This procedure helps to deaden the nerves around the SI joint, preventing them from sending pain signals to the brain.

  • Radiofrequency Ablation – While doing a percutaneous rhizotomy, the surgeon will use an x-ray to help guide a probe through the skin to the medial branch nerve. The probe will heat up and ablate the nerves in order to reduce your pain. You can choose to either have sedation or not, depending on your pain tolerance. 70 percent of patients experience pain relief for up to one year.
    Radiofrequency Ablation – Learn More


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