What is sacroiliitis?
Sacroiliitis is an inflammation of the sacroiliac joint. It can include both joints or just one. These joints are found at the lower part of your spine where it connects to your pelvic area, near the hips. The pain of sacroiliitis can affect the:
- Lower back
- Legs (one or both)
- Hips (one or both)
- Feet (not as common)
Sacroiliitis is a main component in ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis is a rheumatic disease that causes joint inflammation and stiffness in the spine and hips. It is a type of arthritis that is progressive.
How common is sacroiliitis?
Anyone can get sacroiliitis. However, ankylosing spondylitis, which has sacroiliitis as a major component, is less common and is seen more often in Caucasians. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of sacroiliitis?
The symptoms of sacroiliitis can look similar to other lower back issues. However, it is specifically an inflammation in the joint. The more common symptom is pain in the lower back, hip, buttocks, and down the legs. This is sometimes accompanied by a low-grade fever.
The pain will usually be worse after standing for a long time, going up or down stairs, or running or walking with long strides.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes sacroiliitis?
Causes for sacroiliac joint dysfunction include:
- Traumatic injury. A sudden impact, such as a motor vehicle accident or a fall, can damage your sacroiliac joints.
- Wear-and-tear arthritis (osteoarthritis) can occur in sacroiliac joints, as can ankylosing spondylitis — a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine.
- The sacroiliac joints must loosen and stretch to accommodate childbirth. The added weight and altered gait during pregnancy can cause additional stress on these joints and can lead to abnormal wear.
- In rare cases, the sacroiliac joint can become infected.
What increases my risk for sacroiliitis?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is sacroiliitis diagnosed?
Diagnosis comes through several options which are usually done in combination for a more accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will start with a physical exam which may include pressing in the area of your hip or your buttocks and moving your legs.
In order to identify that the pain in in your sacroiliac joint and not somewhere else in your lower back, your doctor may decide inject a numbing medication directly into the joint. However, this is not always an accurate test since the medication can spread to other areas.
You doctor might also send you for an X-ray to confirm. An MRI might be used if your doctor thinks you might have ankylosing spondylitis.
How is sacroiliitis treated?
Treatment depends on the type of sacroiliitis. Taking over-the-counter pain medications and resting the joint can often help alleviate many symptoms. However, if you are pregnant you should check with your doctor before taking any medication. Treatment options for sacroiliitis include:
- Alternating ice and heat to relieve pain and inflammation
- Physical therapy and exercise
- Injections of corticosteroids directly into the joint (these can only be done periodically due to side effects from regular use)
- Electrical stimulation of the joint using a tens unit (aka, transcutaneous nerve stimulation) and spinal cord stimulation
- Surgery, which is only performed in extreme cases and is done to fuse together the bones
If the pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe a pain medication or a muscle relaxer to help, since muscle spasms are common. You may also be given a prescription for a medication called a TNF inhibitor if your sacroiliitis is related to ankylosing spondylitis.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sacroiliitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with sacroiliitis:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers. Drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help relieve pain associated with sacroiliitis. Some of these drugs can cause stomach upset, or kidney or liver problems; the Food and Drug Administration recently strengthened its warning about an increased risk of heart attack and stroke with use of nonsteroidal anti-inflamatory drugs, such as ibuprofen. Read labels and take only as directed.
- Modifying or avoiding the activities that worsen your pain might help reduce the inflammation in your sacroiliac joints. Proper posture is important.
- Ice and heat. Alternating ice and heat might help relieve sacroiliac pain
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: December 11, 2017 | Last Modified: December 9, 2019
Sacroiliitis. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sacroiliitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350747. Accessed December 11, 2017.
Sacroiliitis. https://www.healthline.com/health/sacroiliitis. Accessed December 11, 2017.