Lower back pain is extremely common, and a decent amount of it can be attributed to the sacroiliac joint. This joint connects the hip bones to the triangular bone between the lumbar spine and tailbone. This joint’s main function is cushioning the shock between the upper and lower body. It doesn’t move much except for small shifts necessary to absorb that stress. The joint is supported by ligaments surrounding it that also help with this function.
Since this joint’s function is so important, it is critical to try to protect it. Problems with this joint can cause pain, both sharp or dull, that starts at the location of the joint, but may project to other parts of your back, groin, buttocks or thighs.
We will explore some possible causes for sacroiliac joint issues and what you can do to prevent it or get relief.
Leg Length Discrepancy
Anywhere between 60-90% of the population has a difference in leg lengths to varying degrees. Unequal leg length can be caused by actual structural differences, such as physical length of leg bones, or by neuromuscular injuries in the pelvis or legs that pull one leg up higher than the other due to unequal muscle tightening. Many of the differences are so minor that they are undetectable, but they can still affect our joints in the long run. During every movement involving the legs, the body has to compensate for the unevenness, and the sacroiliac joint takes the brunt of that stress.
The most common treatment for leg length discrepancy is an orthotic lift in the heel of one shoe to boost up the shorter leg.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
This condition is normally caused by one of two mechanisms. First, the SI joint can have too much mobility or instability, causing everything to be too loose, or can have too little movement, causing muscle tension. When the sacroiliac joint gets inflamed, it can lead to severe pain and stiffness and can drastically interfere with movement and everyday activities. It is important to use proper body mechanics when going about your day because one small strain or twist can land you on the couch for a few days.
Inflammatory joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the SI joint, just like any other joint in the body. The chance of arthritis increases as we age. The most effective way to try to stave off this disease is to take care of our bodies by eating healthy and exercising regularly. There are many foods and supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties that have shown to prevent or improve cases of arthritis, including omega-3 fatty acids and turmeric.
The sacroiliac joint performs a very important function in the body and is worth protecting if you want to keep moving freely and without pain. Depending on the cause of any pain you have in that joint, whether it be due to leg length discrepancy, arthritis, injury, or inflammation for another reason, seek the proper diagnosis and treatment from a doctor at the earliest sign of discomfort. And, as always, be kind to your joints by eating a healthy diet, keeping your body moving, and managing your weight to avoid extra stress on joints.