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Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Sacroiliitis refers to inflammation of one or both sacroiliac joints, and is one cause of unilateral low back pain. With sacroiliitis, the individual may experience pain in the low back, buttock or thigh, depending on the amount of inflammation. Common problems of the sacroiliac joint are often called sacroiliac joint dysfunction (also termed SI joint dysfunction; SIJD). Sacroiliac joint dysfunction generally refers to pain in the sacroiliac joint region that is caused by abnormal motion in the sacroiliac joint, either too much motion or too little motion. It typically results in inflammation of the SI joint, or sacroiliitis.

While it is not clear how the pain is caused, it is thought that an alteration in the normal joint motion may be the culprit that causes sacroiliac pain. This source of pain can be caused by either:

  • Too much movement (hypermobility or instability): The pain is typically felt in the lower back and/or hip and may radiate into groin area.

  • Too little movement (hypomobility or fixation): The pain is typically felt on one side of the low back or buttocks, and can radiate down the leg. The pain usually remains above the knee, but at times pain can extend to the ankle or foot. The pain is similar to sciatica, or pain that radiates down the sciatic nerve and is caused by a radiculopathy.

Physical Therapy to Treat Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Physical therapy can help ease stress on your SI joints, which can become strained from sitting or standing for long periods of time. It can also help you maintain joint flexibility—especially important as you get older.

When you have SI joint dysfunction, you do not have to do intense exercise. In fact, you can benefit greatly from a gentle exercise routine—the key is to exercise consistently. Among the many benefits of exercising with SI joint pain, it can help stretch and strengthen low back muscles, and it can help you maintain joint flexibility.

As part of an overall exercise plan for SI joint dysfunction, incorporate the 3 main types of exercise—aerobic, strengthening, and flexibility exercises—into your workout routine. There are numerous gentle exercises and stretches you can do to help decrease pain caused by SI joint dysfunction. However, the exercises must be prescribed by a physical therapist after a careful examination and evaluation of your specific needs.

Always consult your physician and physical therapist for a correct diagnosis before assuming you have any specific problems.

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