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Spine Conditions

Sacroiliac Joint Disorders Treatment Options

Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction affects about 25% of adults with chronic low back pain. The pain is typically on only one side of the lower back. Women are more commonly affected than men, likely because the SI joint in women is more mobile compared with the SI joint in men, which results in larger stress, load, and pelvic ligament pain. In some cases, childbirth may contribute to sacroiliac joint laxity or ligamentous injury.

The sacroiliac joint is located in the lower part of the back, between the sacrum and the ilium bones of the pelvis. It is a critical component of the lower spine and pelvis and an important loadbearing buttress that transfers weight and forces between the torso, spine, and lower extremities. Sacroiliac joint disorders encompass a range of conditions that can cause pain and joint dysfunction.

  • Degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis): This is the most common form of arthritis that affects the SI joint and is characterized by the wearing away of the cartilage between the joints.
  • Inflammatory arthritis: Conditions like ankylosing spondylitis or psoriatic arthritis can cause inflammation in the SI joints.
  • Trauma: Injury caused by impact, such as from a fall or car accident, can damage the SI joints and cause posttraumatic arthritis.
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and weight increase during pregnancy can cause hypermobility and stress in the SI joints.

The primary symptom of an SI joint disorder is lower back, buttocks, or thigh pain. The pain may radiate into the legs. This pain may be aggravated by prolonged standing, climbing stairs, sleeping on one’s side, or other physical activities. Other symptoms may include:

  • Stiffness or a burning sensation in the pelvis
  • Pain that radiates to the lower limbs
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Weakness
  • Buttocks pain
  • Hip/groin pain
  • Leg instability
  • Instability or a feeling of the pelvis being out of alignment

Diagnosis typically involves a review of your medical history and an assessment of your symptoms. Dr. Ball will inquire about any history of injury, arthritis, or pregnancy. During the orthopedic examination, he will use specialized tests that manipulate the legs and torso to provoke SI joint pain and tests to evaluate your gait, range of motion, strength, and flexibility.

He may also evaluate neurological deficits, including reflexes and sensations. He will order X-rays and a CT scan or MRI scan to help identify SI joint disorders. He may order diagnostic injections directly into the SI joint. If the injection relieves pain, the SI joint is likely the source of pain.

When SI joint dysfunction is confirmed, treatment for SI joint disorders will be based on the cause. Conservative nonsurgical treatment includes physical therapy, NSAIDs for pain, SI joint belts to help stabilize the joint, education, and analgesic injection with or without steroids into the joint under fluoroscopic X-ray guidance, which can reduce inflammation, and pain and improve function. Ultrasound, deep heat, electrical stimulation, and traction can help relieve pain. Low-impact exercise and massage can help. Wearing a sacroiliac belt can provide support and ease pain.

If diagnostic injections confirm a diagnosis, radiofrequency nerve ablation (rhizotomy) can provide longer-term relief. If needed after nonoperative treatments have been exhausted, surgery to fuse the SI joint may be recommended.

When you or a loved one has low back pain and pain that radiates into the legs, contact Dr. Hieu Ball to schedule a consultation at his San Ramon. He offers a full range of treatments for neck pain. Dr. Ball offers state-of-the-art patient-centered care for patients with neck, mid-back, and low-back problems. He received his orthopedic and spine surgery residency and fellowship training at Harvard Medical School and UCLA-affiliated institutions. Education included training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Ball is a double fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon. He received a pediatric spine fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital and a second adult spine fellowship at UCLA. Dr. Ball offers minimally invasive spine care, and many procedures often may be performed on an outpatient basis in an ambulatory surgical center setting.


  • https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2022/0300/p239.html
  • De Salvatore S, Russo F, Vadalà G, et al. Interventional treatments for low back pain due to sacroiliac joint dysfunction: a systematic literature review. Eur Spine J. 2024 Apr;33(4):1407-1423. doi: 10.1007/s00586-024-08130-y. Epub 2024 Feb 8. PMID: 38329572.
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/si-joint-pain#diagnosis
At a Glance

Dr. Hieu Ball

  • Double fellowship-trained orthopedic
  • Orthopedic surgery residency at Harvard Medical School
  • Over 20 years of spine surgery experience
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