SIJ Dysfunction

SIJ dysfunction refers to a problem with the sacroiliac joint, which connects the bottom of the spine to the pelvis, causing pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, and sometimes down the legs.

SIJ Dysfunction
SIJ Dysfunction
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Your Guide to Understanding SIJ Dysfunction

What is SIJ Dysfunction?

SIJ dysfunction, also known as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, refers to an abnormality or impairment in the sacroiliac joint, which is located at the junction between the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) and the ilium (the large pelvic bone). This joint plays a crucial role in transmitting forces between the upper body and the lower body during activities such as walking, running, and standing.

When the sacroiliac joint becomes dysfunctional, it can result in pain and discomfort in the lower back, buttocks, and sometimes radiating down into the legs. The pain is typically felt on one side of the lower back, but it can also be bilateral. The intensity and duration of the pain may vary from person to person, ranging from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain.

Several factors can contribute to SIJ dysfunction, including trauma or injury to the joint, hormonal changes during pregnancy, repetitive stress due to certain occupations or activities, and degenerative changes associated with aging. The condition can also arise from imbalances in the muscles surrounding the joint or altered biomechanics of the pelvis and spine.

Diagnosing SIJ dysfunction involves a comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional, which may include a physical examination, medical history review, and diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans. Once diagnosed, treatment options can be explored to alleviate symptoms and improve function.

Treatment for SIJ dysfunction aims to reduce pain, restore joint mobility, and improve stability. It often involves a multidisciplinary approach with input from physiotherapists, chiropractors, and naturopaths. Physical therapy may be recommended to strengthen the muscles around the joint, improve joint mobility, and address any underlying muscle imbalances. Chiropractic adjustments can help realign the joint and alleviate pain. Naturopathic interventions may involve dietary and lifestyle modifications, as well as the use of herbal remedies or supplements to support overall joint health.

How can Physiotherapy help treat SIJ Dysfunction?

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in alleviating Sacroiliac Joint (SIJ) Dysfunction. Through a combination of manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilizations and soft tissue work, physiotherapists can help restore proper alignment and mobility to the SIJ.

Additionally, they may prescribe specific exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles and improve stability of the joint. Education on proper posture and body mechanics is also provided to prevent further exacerbation of the condition.

Overall, physiotherapy aims to reduce pain, improve function, and enhance the quality of life for individuals with SIJ Dysfunction.

What causes SIJ Dysfunction?

SIJ dysfunction can be caused by a variety of factors. Some common causes include:

  • Trauma or Injury: A sudden impact or fall can damage the sacroiliac joint, leading to dysfunction. This can occur due to accidents, sports injuries, or even a simple misstep.
  • Pregnancy and Hormonal Changes: During pregnancy, hormonal changes can loosen the ligaments around the SIJ to prepare for childbirth. This increased mobility can sometimes lead to instability and dysfunction in the joint.
  • Repetitive Stress: Certain occupations or activities that involve repetitive motions or heavy lifting can put strain on the SIJ over time. This can gradually lead to dysfunction and pain.
  • Muscle Imbalances: Imbalances in the muscles surrounding the SIJ can disrupt its normal function. Weakness or tightness in specific muscles can cause an uneven distribution of forces, leading to dysfunction.
  • Degenerative Changes: As we age, the cartilage in the SIJ may wear down, causing degenerative changes. This can result in reduced joint stability and increased risk of dysfunction.

What treatments might help SIJ Dysfunction?

The treatment options for SIJ dysfunction aim to alleviate pain, improve joint function, and enhance overall well-being. Here's how these treatments can help improve SIJ dysfunction:

  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of SIJ dysfunction. It involves targeted exercises and stretches that help strengthen the muscles around the joint, improve flexibility, and restore stability. Physical therapy can also provide education on proper body mechanics and postural awareness, which can reduce stress on the SIJ.
  • Medications: Pain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), may be recommended to manage pain and reduce inflammation associated with SIJ dysfunction. These medications can help provide temporary relief and improve mobility.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections may be used to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain in the SIJ. These injections are administered directly into the joint and can provide significant pain relief that lasts for several weeks or months.
  • Minimally Invasive Procedures: In some cases, minimally invasive procedures, such as radiofrequency ablation or sacroiliac joint fusion, may be recommended when conservative treatments fail to provide sufficient relief. These procedures aim to stabilize the joint, reduce pain, and improve function.

Signs of SIJ Dysfunction:

SIJ dysfunction can manifest through various signs and symptoms. Some common indications of SIJ dysfunction include:

  • Lower Back or Buttock Pain: Pain in the lower back or buttock region is a primary symptom of SIJ dysfunction. The pain is typically localized to one side, but it can sometimes radiate down the thigh.
  • Hip or Groin Pain: Some individuals with SIJ dysfunction may experience pain in the hip joint or groin area. This discomfort may be felt on one side or both sides.
  • Pain with Movement: Pain or discomfort can be triggered by specific movements, such as standing up from a seated position, walking, climbing stairs, or twisting the torso. Prolonged sitting or lying down in certain positions may also exacerbate the pain.
  • Stiffness or Limited Range of Motion: SIJ dysfunction can cause stiffness in the lower back or hips, making it difficult to perform certain movements or activities. You may feel a sense of tightness or restriction in the affected area.
  • Unstable Feeling in the Pelvis: Some individuals may experience a sensation of instability or a "giving way" feeling in the pelvis. This can make it challenging to maintain balance and stability while walking or engaging in physical activities.
  • Clicking or Grinding Sensation: In some cases, SIJ dysfunction may be accompanied by a clicking or grinding sensation in the pelvic area during movement.

Symptoms of SIJ Dysfunction:

SIJ dysfunction can present with a range of symptoms that can vary from person to person. Here are some common symptoms associated with SIJ dysfunction:

  • Pain: The most prevalent symptom is pain in the lower back, buttocks, or hips. The pain is typically localized to one side of the body and can be sharp, achy, or dull in nature.
  • Difficulty Standing or Sitting: SIJ dysfunction may make it uncomfortable to stand or sit for extended periods. You may feel an increase in pain or discomfort when assuming these positions.
  • Pain with Weight-Bearing Activities: Activities that involve bearing weight on the affected side, such as walking, running, or climbing stairs, can exacerbate pain and discomfort.
  • Stiffness: SIJ dysfunction can cause stiffness in the lower back and hips, making it challenging to move freely. This stiffness may be more pronounced in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity.
  • Radiating Pain: In some cases, the pain originating from the SIJ can radiate down the thigh, groin, or even to the knee. This is known as referred pain.
  • Clicking or Popping Sensation: Some individuals may experience a clicking, popping, or grinding sensation in the SIJ during movement. However, not everyone with SIJ dysfunction will have this symptom.
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When is the right time to see a Physiotherapist for SIJ Dysfunction?

It is recommended to see physiotherapist if you are experiencing symptoms of SIJ dysfunction that are affecting your daily activities or quality of life. Some signs that may indicate it's time to seek professional help include:

  • Persistent Pain: If you have ongoing pain in your lower back, buttocks, hips, or groin that doesn't improve with rest or self-care measures, it may be beneficial to consult with a healthcare professional.
  • Limited Mobility: Difficulty with movements such as standing up, walking, or bending due to pain or stiffness in the pelvic area can indicate SIJ dysfunction. Seeking treatment can help improve joint mobility and restore function.
  • Recurring Episodes: If you have experienced episodes of SIJ dysfunction in the past that have resolved but keep returning, it may be wise to seek professional guidance to address the underlying causes and prevent future flare-ups.
  • Impact on Daily Life: If SIJ dysfunction is interfering with your ability to perform everyday tasks, work, exercise, or participate in activities you enjoy, it's a good idea to seek professional help to manage the condition effectively.
  • Uncertainty or Concern: If you're unsure about the cause of your symptoms or have concerns about your condition, consulting with a physiotherapist can provide you with a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Meet our Lead Registered Physiotherapist

Brittany Pereira

Brittany Pereira

Registered Physiotherapist

Registered Physiotherapist with a degree from the University of Toronto

Brittany enjoys working with patients across age groups and backgrounds to help them move better, get stronger, understand their bodies and ultimately, feel more confident. She combines her knowledge and clinical experience to best serve her patients.

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