SI Joint Pain and Exercises: When to See a Doctor and Treatment Options

If you have been struggling with lower back pain for a prolonged period, it could indicate issues in your sacroiliac joints located in your lower back. Although you might not be aware, these SI joints are prone to injury or dysfunction, leading to pain. 

The pain caused by SI joint dysfunction is often characterized by sharp stabbing pain or a dull ache in the lower back or hip region, disrupting your daily routine. However, the good news is that this condition can be treated with simple yet effective conservative treatments if detected early.

If you experience the symptoms of SI joint pain, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly to prevent the condition from worsening. Your healthcare provider can diagnose the issue and provide a personalized treatment plan to help manage the pain and improve your quality of life.

SI Joint Pain: Causes and Symptoms

The sacroiliac joint is a large and strong joint between the lower end of the spine and the pelvic region. Two SI joints on each side help transmit the upper body weight between the hips and legs. 

Therefore these joints tend to undergo substantial stress in your everyday life. Besides, they also serve as shock absorbers and are reinforced by various strong ligaments. 

The inflammation or injury in the SI joints limits your movement. Experts have revealed that 15-24% of lower back pain in people of all ages is attributed to problems related to SI joints. 

Common Causes of SI Joint Pain

The exact reason behind your SI joint pain’s onset plays a key role in deciding the treatment plan. Some of the frequent causes of the condition include

Acute Injury: A traumatic and sudden event like a car accident, fall, or twist motion can cause SI joint pain.

Pregnancy: Decreased secretion of relaxin hormone during pregnancy makes the SI joints less stable and vulnerable to injuries.

Spine surgeries: Research suggests that SI joint pain is often diagnosed in individuals who underwent lumbar fusion treatment.

Infection – In rare cases, SI joint pain occurs due to osteoarticular infection caused by bacterial infection.

Overuse – Repetitive stress caused by the activities can exert additional pressure on the SI joint, causing pain and inflammation. 

Arthritis – Different types of arthritis can cause inflammation and pain in the SI joint.

Symptoms of SI joint pain

The most common signs and symptoms of SI joint pain include

  • Pain in the buttock and lower back usually begins on one side and slowly radiates to one or both legs causing numbness and tingling.
  • Discomfort and dullness ache while bending over or standing up after a prolonged period of sitting.
  • Pain gets worse while performing activities and even prolonged standing time.
  • Limited range of motion and increased pain after laying down.
  • Muscle spasms in your lower back.

Diagnosis of SI Joint Pain

  • Medical History and Physical Examination

Diagnosing SI joint pain starts with assessing medical history and conducting a thorough physical examination. The physician might also instruct you to do certain activities to confirm the presence of inflammation or injury. 

  • Imaging Tests

Besides the basic findings, healthcare professionals might suggest imaging tests such as X-rays and MRI scans to get conclusive radiographic results correlating with SI joint pain. 

  • Diagnostic Injection

This procedure is injected into the joint to identify or determine infection as a pain generator in the SI joints.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for SI Joint Pain

The non-surgical treatment options for SI joint pain might vary depending on the underlying cause. For instance, pain caused by trauma is easily treated compared to the pain caused by other medical issues like arthritis. Some non-surgical treatment options for SI joint pain are mentioned below:

  • Rest and Altered Activities

SI joint pain requires ample resting periods to heal the inflammation completely. Besides, avoiding activities involving bending and weight lifting and sports like jogging and running will further prevent joint damage. You can also try to modify your activities or perform exercises for SI joint pain for better results.

  • Ice and Heat Therapy

Ice and heat therapy is another effective SI joint pain treatment that improves blood flow to the affected area, numbs the pain and speeds up the healing process. 

  • Pain Medications

In most cases, the treatment for SI joint pain begins with prescribing NSAIDs like ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation. 

  • Injection Therapy

Injection therapy (including corticosteroid injections and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy) helps decrease pain and inflammation. The result might be short or long-term, depending on the type of chosen therapy.

  • Physical Therapy

Physical exercises for SI joint pain help enhance joint strength and flexibility. You are subjected by the expert therapists to a series of stretching, strengthening and aerobic stretches based on their assessment of your symptoms and the severity of the condition. For instance, low-impact aerobic exercise will stimulate the blood flow to the joint and induce faster healing. 

Surgical Treatment Options for SI Joint Pain

Surgery is typically the last option, where the ultimate goal is to relieve pain and stabilize the joints in the spine. Your doctor might suggest a minimally invasive joint fusion surgical method. The procedure usually involves placing artificial rods in the place of joints to fuse them and promote healing. 

When to See a Doctor for SI Joint Pain

Recovering from SI joint pain begins when you understand what aggravates the condition in the first place. You can manage the condition better with proper guidance and an individualized treatment plan from your physician. 

Seek immediate medical attention from a healthcare professional if you have any flowing symptoms. These signs indicate a serious underlying issue.

  • Sudden numbness or tingling sensation in your hip or lower back regions
  • Weakness in your leg muscles
  • Difficult to control your bladder or bowel movement
  • A sudden increase in pain or discomfort in the joints
  • The healing rate is slower than expected.
  • Fever

Importance of early Diagnosis and Treatment

Sacroiliac joint pain usually shows a positive response to conservative and non-invasive management. However, failing to seek early diagnosis and timely treatment will result in chronic pain and disability. Studies show that people with chronic joint pain often struggle with depression and sleep deprivation. 

The best way to avoid potential complications of SI joint pain is to visit your physician for an accurate examination. Since the condition is not common as other lower back problems, you need to see an experienced spine or orthopedic specialist. Even after the treatment, keep the doctor involved through regular follow-ups regarding pain issues or positive progress.


If you are struggling with lower back pain, it can be extremely challenging for you to perform even simple regular activities. Hence instead of shaking it off as a common problem, ensure to get it checked as it could indicate SI joint pain. 

When left unchecked, the condition can greatly affect your quality of life, and you cannot heal independently. In a nutshell, seek an accurate diagnosis to know the cause of discomfort and opt for a personalized interventional treatment plan to return to your active, healthy lifestyle.

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