The sacroiliac joint, better known as the SI joint, is located in your lower back with one sitting on each side of your spine. The job of the SI joint is to support your upper body when you stand up or walk around. It also shifts the load to your legs. SI joint dysfunction can be tricky to diagnose because it can easily be mistaken for other conditions. Still, SI joint problems account for 15-30% of lower back pain cases. In this blog we will review SI joint dysfunction symptoms, causes and what si joint pain natural remedies are available that may help ease your discomfort.
SI Joint Dysfunction Causes
Many things can cause SI joint dysfunction, including:
Too Much or Too Little Movement in the SI joint
SI joint dysfunction can develop when there’s too much or too little movement in the area. Too much movement, or hypermobility, in the joint can cause pain because the pelvis feels unstable.
Too little movement, also known as hypomobility, can lead to pain and muscle tension. It can also inhibit mobility.
Scoliosis, discrepancies in leg lengths, and other gait issues can lead to SI joint dysfunction. These conditions can place uneven pressure on the pelvis, wearing down the SI joint in the process.
Surgeries on the lower back can lead to SI joint issues due to pressure displacement. Research shows that SI joint pain is more common following back fusion surgery.
Pregnancy or Childbirth
Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth may develop SI joint pain. Hormonal changes and weight gain can cause the SI joint to relax.
Ligaments may remain loose even after giving birth, and this can cause persisting SI joint issues.
Activities That Stress the Joints
Many activities can put excessive stress on the joints that can lead to SI joint problems, such as weightlifting, contact sports, and jobs involving manual labor.
A certain type of arthritis, known as ankylosing spondylitis, can lead to SI joint problems. This form of arthritis affects the spine and can impact the SI joint.
SI Joint Dysfunction Symptoms
Si joint dysfunction symptoms are often mistaken for other conditions, often times making it hard to diagnose this condition. SI joint dysfunction symptoms that are common include:
- Pain in the lower back that may radiate into the groin.
- Pain on one side of the lower back or buttocks that may radiate down the back of the leg.
- Stiffness and reduced range of motion in the hips, lower back, groin, and pelvis that can make it difficult to bend over or walk up the stairs.
- Instability in the pelvis. It may feel like your pelvis is going to give out when walking, standing, or moving around.
- Pain that gets worse when there’s pressure on the SI joint. You’ll feel it when you’re running, climbing stairs, jogging, or lying on one side.
Diagnosing SI Joint Dysfunction
Diagnosing SI joint issues can be challenging, but there are several tests that can help doctors achieve an accurate diagnosis.
The first step is to get an accurate picture of your medical history, including your pain symptoms. There are several tests that can be performed to look for SI joint dysfunction:
To perform this test, you will need to lay down on your back. One leg is kept straight, and with the other leg, the knee is bent. To put pressure on the SI joint, the knee is gently pressed down and out to the side. If there’s pain or stiffness when performing this test, this is an indication of SI joint dysfunction.
For this test, you will need to lay face down on an exam table. Pressure will be applied to the back of the hips. Pain is an indication of issues with the SI joint.
This test requires you to lay on your back. Pressure will be applied to the front of your hips. Pain indicates that there may be issues with the SI joint.
For this test, the thumb is used to put deep pressure on the joint on each side. Tenderness indicates that there may be an issue with the SI joint.
Along with these tests, doctors may also use diagnostic imaging and injections (sacroiliac joint block) for diagnosis.
SI Joint Pain Natural Remedies
Over-the-counter pain medications are often recommended for SI joint pain, but there are also natural remedies that can help fight inflammation and pain.
A visit to the chiropractor may be just what you need. Manual manipulation can be very effective at alleviating sacroiliac joint pain, especially when caused by hypomobility.
Manipulation can help reduce muscle tension and joint fixation to help restore mobility.
When SI joint dysfunction is caused by too much movement, a pelvic brace can help stabilize the area and bring some relief.
Pelvic braces are discreet (about the size of a belt), and they can be worn when you have a flare-up.
Turmeric Essential Oil
Turmeric is a plant that is part of the ginger family, and its root is used for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. These effects are due to one important compound in this plant: curcumin.
One study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found turmeric essential oil had modest anti-inflammatory effects on joints of animals.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, may be effective for back pain including SI joint pain, particularly when applied topically. In one study using a rat model, transdermal CBD significantly reduced swelling in the joints using doses of 0.6-6.2mg/day. The results indicate that topical CBD may be effective for arthritis pain and inflammation without negative side effects.
The advantage of using CBD topically, such as in creams and gels, is that they can be applied directly to the inflamed joint. They also often contain other ingredients that further help with pain relief.
Ice and Heat Therapy
Alternating between ice and heat therapy can help alleviate joint pain and inflammation. It’s a tried-and-true treatment, and it works well for SI joint pain.
Heat encourages blood flow to the inflamed joint. It also relaxes muscles that can make the pain even worse.
Ice packs can help when the inflammation is more severe. In this case, it’s better to restrict blood flow to the area to soothe the inflammation.
Many plants and herbs can help with SI joint pain, including cat’s claw. This plant, which grows naturally in Central and South America, may help reduce inflammation while improving immune function.
One study looked at the effects of cat’s claw on people with rheumatoid arthritis. Those who took the extract for 24 weeks experienced a 53.2% reduction in joint pain.
Eucalyptus essential oil has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. The leaves of the plant also contain tannins and flavonoids that have antioxidant properties that may help with pain and inflammation.
In one study using cell cultures, researchers found that eucalyptus leaf extract reduced two inflammatory-related enzymes.
Eucalyptus oil can be applied topically when diluted with a carrier oil. It can also be used in a diffuser and inhaled. However, it is important to remember that eucalyptus should never be ingested.
Derived from the bark of the Boswellia tree, frankincense is a resin with a strong aroma. But it also contains compounds that may help with joint pain and inflammation. Frankincense contains 4 major boswellic acids. These acids can inhibit pro-inflammatory enzymes. Small mediator chemicals called leukotrienes can cause inflammation. Studies have found that Boswellia is a specific inhibitor to leukotrienes by stopping their synthesis. In turn, this stops inflammation and shrinks the inflamed tissue, sometimes relieving pain and discomfort.
One review of small-scale trials found evidence that frankincense may be effective for arthritis management. The authors found that up to 70% of participants saw a significant improvement in their symptoms when using frankincense.
This suggests that frankincense can be beneficial for not only SI joint dysfunction, but nerve pain and joint pain as well.
DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide, is known for its pain-relieving properties. It blocks pain by interrupting the conduction in the small c-fibers, the nonmyelinated nerve fibers. DMSO also helps reduce inflammation and can help wounds heal faster. Right now, DMSO is approved for use by the FDA to help relieve interstitial cystitis pain. But it’s also used to help with other types of pain, including joint pain.
SI joint dysfunction can be a painful condition that makes everyday tasks a chore. Fortunately, there are many natural treatments that may bring you the relief you crave – without the side effects.