Sometimes Low Back Pain Could Be Due to Sacroiliac Joint

November 30, 2022

Summary: Low back pain is pretty common. Most people suffer from lower back pain due to sciatica, bulging disk or spine- disk degeneration. However, in some cases, low back pain may be due to sacroiliac joint issues. However, diagnosing sacroiliac joint pain is challenging, as its signs and symptoms resemble low back pain for other reasons. Nonetheless, pain specialists recommend that those with low back pain maintain a journal, as there are minute differences between pain due to bulging disk and sacroiliac joint. Timely diagnosis of the condition would help doctors treat the condition better.

Low back pain is among the most common causes of chronic pain. It often affects women of childbearing age. It means that the condition first affects a person at quite a young age. Low back pain causes constant pain, stiffness, and difficulty in walking. The pain often radiates to the legs causing pain and even numbness.

The most common cause of back pain is disk hernia or disk degeneration. However, in a small number of cases, this pain may be due to changes in the sacroiliac joint. However, the problem is that doctors are more likely to look for more common causes of low back pain. Thus, they may often fail to identify the real cause of back pain.

Moreover, things are further made complicated by the fact that doctors carry out imaging tests, but low back changes like disc degeneration or bulging disc is present in most people. Hence, doctors are quick to conclude that low back pain in the patient is due to issues related to the spinal disc.

However, failure to identify the real cause of low back pain results in suboptimal treatment. Of course, painkillers like opioids would help, as they help suppress just any kind of pain sensation. However, when doctors fail to identify the real cause, they also fail to provide complete relief to their patients, and patients often have to take painkillers for a long time.

Sacroiliac joint pain may occur due to many reasons like pregnancy, arthritis, infection, and other issue. In addition, those who had motor vehicle accidents are also more likely to have low back pain due to the sacroiliac joint.

However, if the condition remains undiagnosed, treatment is suboptimal. For example, doctors would often recommend local steroid injections to shrink the bulging disk. The treatment may help reduce the bulge. However, if the cause of the pain is the sacroiliac joint, such treatments just fail to provide any prolonged relief. In many cases, patients may not experience any benefit after such procedures.

The reason why doctors so often fail to identify the pains originating from the sacroiliac joint is that this joint is relatively immobile. It is held in place with the help of strong ligaments. Thus, it is less likely to be affected.

When treating low back pain, doctors would often recommend physical and physiotherapy. However, most of these treatments focus on the lower spine, not the sacroiliac joint. Instead, they try to strengthen the core muscles, which may help a bit, but such an approach also fails to provide complete relief.

How to Tell if your Low Back Pain is due to the Sacroiliac Joint?

Telling the difference between the two can be quite challenging, especially considering that low back pain and sacroiliac joint pain may cause similar kinds of symptoms. Nonetheless, there are some minute differences between the two.

In the case of lower back pain due to a bulging disc or even sciatica, the pain radiates through the leg, often reaching the lower leg, causing severe pain and numbness. Moreover, the pain is centered in the lower back. In the case of the sacroiliac joint, the pain is a bit on the lower side, and one can pinpoint the pain location. Though the pain may also radiate to the leg, it does not radiate to the lower leg and usually stays above the knee.

Additionally, in the case of a bulging disc, leg weakness is more prominent when compared to sacroiliac pain. In the case of low back pain, some may even develop issues like loss of bowel movement or bladder control. Though MRI can be a valuable tool in identifying the cause of low back pain, it is not perfect. Many people living with sacroiliac joint pain may also have changes in the lower back, like a bulging disc or disc degeneration.

Fortunately, in most cases, experienced physicians can differentiate between the two. However, it is vital for patients to describe their pain more precisely. That is why pain specialists recommend that those living with low back pain maintain a journal, writing all the details regarding the type of pain, what causes the pain, when it occurs, describing the character of pain, and more. All this information can help your doctor differentiate between various causes of low back pain.

Padda Institute of Pain Management not only offers Sciatica Nerve Pain Treatment but also dedicated treatments for lower back pain due to spine injuries, sacroiliac joints, etc.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA