Sacroiliac syndrome describes the condition where one or both sacroiliac joints misalign or malfunction. They can either lose their mobility and become “stuck”, or become too loose. Both conditions cause pain and muscle stiffness.
The sacroiliac joint is a large joint that forms part of the pelvis at the base of the spine and unites the sacrum and the iliac bones. It is a strong joint held together by fibrous ligaments, as it is designed to bear the weight of the body which is transferred downwards to the legs. There is no muscle that spans this joint exclusively which means although strong with ligaments it has no real muscular support and therefore is often the first link in a chain to “go”.
Functions of the Sacroiliac joint
Apart from its weight bearing functions, the sacroiliac joint also assists in the movement of the spine during walking, sitting and most other daily activities. Its movement is also vital for pumping cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) around the spinal cord. CFS acts as a “blood” system of the central nervous system carrying oxygen, food, hormones and brain chemicals around the brain and spinal cord. Hence any interference with the functioning of the sacrum affects the pumping of this fluid and can have a significant impact on your general wellbeing.
A variety of factors, but mainly heavy lifting, prolonged periods of sitting (particularly with one leg crossed over the other or on an un-level chair), lifting and twisting, pregnancy & birthing, slips /falls or trauma such as a motor vehicle accident. It can also be caused by a “short leg” on one side.
Sharp, stabbing pain over the sacroiliac joint with movement, reducing to a dull pain at rest. In most acute cases only one joint is affected, but if chronic, both joints become involved. The pain may radiate into the buttock or down the back of the leg, but normally not further than the knee. It can also radiate forward to the groin on the same side. The pain is typically felt when getting out of a chair/car or out of bed, and turning over in bed during the night. Generally, pins and needles / numbness are not experienced, although in severe cases they can be present.
- Specific chiropractic adjustments to restore the normal mobility and position of the joint, alleviating the pain and swelling that accompanies this misalignment.
- The average number of adjustments required to correct the problem depend on whether the problem is acute or chronic and whether the joint is stable or too mobile. On average patients presenting with sacroiliac syndrome need 6 to 8 treatments to heal completely.
- Ice applications over the joint will also reduce the swelling. Ice should be applied for ten minutes at a time every 3 hours in the initial acute phase.
- Sometimes, massage of the adjacent low back and buttock muscles, which may be in spasm, can accelerate the recovery.
Recommended corrective exercises and actions
- Stretching exercises – knee to chest, cross over
- Pelvic rocking exercises
- Back strengthening exercises
- Non weight bearing exercises such as swimming are recommended
- Correct sitting and sleeping postures: Sit with buttocks far back on the chair “on the sitting bones”. This prevents excessive flexion (rounding) of the low back. Sleep either on your back or side. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to prevent twisting taking place in the pelvis. Whilst you are in pain, avoid sleeping on the affected side.
- Avoid bending and lifting, e.g.: housework such as vacuuming, sweeping.
- Check your mattress. Does it have lumps and dents in it? If so, its time to replace it.
If you are unsure about any aspect of your condition or treatment, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr Michael Rees DC at First Chiropractic.