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What is sacroiliitis and why is it an overlooked diagnosis?

Thursday, Aug 09, 2018

Sacroiliitis is known as the inflammation of one or both of the sacroiliac joints. This medical condition occurs when the lower spine and pelvis connect. In other words, it can be said that the sacroiliac joint is the union of the ilium and sacrum. The joint is held together by thick ligaments that distribute the weight of the upper body and spine to the pelvis and legs.

A disorder of the sacroiliac joint can be on either one side or both, potentially impacting both of the joints. The pain from sacroiliitis can be felt in the lower back or buttocks and it can extend further down one or both legs. Pain from sacroiliitis is the result of too little or too much motion in the joints and is a common diagnosis for women due to the changes their body undergoes during pregnancy. Since sacroiliitis pain is similar to other lower back pain it oftentimes is misdiagnosed.

The Symptoms of Sacroiliitis

The expected symptoms of sacroiliitis can include any combination of the following:

  • Fever
  • Pain in the low back
  • Leg pain, possibly in the front of the thigh
  • Hip pain
  • Buttock pain
  • Intensifying pain upon standing or sitting for a long period
  • Pain when rolling over in bed
  • Stiffness in the hips and back, especially upon waking or sitting still for an extended period.

The Causes of Sacroiliitis

There are a number of causes for the inflammation of the sacroiliac joints. These include:

Ankylosing spondylitis: AS is a type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine and hips. The condition causes an inflammation of the vertebrae that can lead to chronic discomfort. The more severe cases can lead to new bone formation in the spine, causing sections of the spine to become immobile.

Osteoarthritis of the spine: Osteoarthritis of the spine is a degenerative joint disease in which the protective cartilage that cushions the discs in the lower back wears down. This condition can produce swelling and pain, as wells as bone spurs that put pressure on the nerves leaving the spinal column. The result is pain and weakness in the legs.

Trauma: A sudden traumatic injury of the sacroiliac joints in a fall, auto accident or a sports injury can result in inflammation, leading to sacroiliitis.

Pregnancy: During the later stages of pregnancy, hormone changes cause the connective tissue that bind the sacroiliac joints to become somewhat elastic in preparation for birth. The body typically bounces back within six weeks, but it is possible for one of the sacroiliac joints to become sprained through this process.

Infection: Infection of the joint is typically caused by bacteria that is already in the body, and spread to one or both sacroiliac joints. This occurs because the ligaments of the SI joints contain a large supply of blood vessels, particularly in the front of the pelvis. This creates the ideal conditions for blood borne bacteria to transfer to the area. Infection will cause inflammation of the SI joint which will cause pain and tenderness.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Sacroiliitis

Until recently, sacroiliitis wasn’t a diagnosis that was often considered. New research and case studies highlighting the condition have brought it the forefront making diagnosis easier to spot and treat. Although it is finally getting the attention it deserves it is still widely overlooked by practitioners. This is why it is very important to do your research and find a doctor who not only has the credentials but is also well versed in current spine related studies along with progressive treatments.

The neurosurgeons at NeuSpine are highly trained in managing and treating pain in the sacroiliac joint. Improvement in pain and quality of life are attainable with the right diagnosis and treatment thereof. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss the options that will best suit your life.