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What is SI Joint Dysfunction, and Is Fusion Surgery the Answer?

What is SI Joint Dysfunction, and Is Fusion Surgery the Answer?

If you have pain and instability in your lower back, especially when you get up from a chair, when you’ve been standing a long time, or when you’re climbing stairs, you may have a problem with the sacroiliac (SI) joint.

We have SI joints on both the left and right sides; they join the ilium—which is the big bone in the hip—with the sacrum, a triangle-shaped bone at the bottom of the spine. Pain from an SI joint can sometimes spread to the upper back, buttocks, or thighs.

There are a number of reasons you could have pain in an SI joint, including:

  • Trauma from a car accident or sports injury
  • Damage from arthritis
  • Repetitive pounding motions, such as jogging
  • Walking with an uneven gait, for instance, if one leg is longer than the other.
  • Pregnancy, which stimulates hormones that cause joints to loosen.

Before your doctor recommends a treatment plan, they will first need to make sure that the source of the pain is the SI joint. This may take a combination of physical exams, patient interviews, imaging tests (X-rays and MRIs), and an injection of an anesthetic into the joint to see whether that stops the pain.

Many patients can find pain relief without surgery. Initially, your doctor will probably recommend one of more of the following:

  • Rest
  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medication
  • Chiropractic care
  • Cortisone injections in the joint

If you continue to have serious pain for more than six months, your doctor may recommend SI joint fusion surgery. In this surgery, the sacrum and ilium bones are fused together using pins and implants.

At NeuroMicroSpine, Dr. Mark Giovanini will perform this surgery using a minimally invasive technique. That mean that rather than making a long incision, he will make much smaller incisions in your buttocks. He will then use X-ray technology to guide his surgical tools to make small holes in the sacrum and ilium bones and then insert implants to join the bones.

Fusing the bones makes them more stable and prevents the bone-on-bone friction that can cause pain. The recovery process from SI joint fusion usually takes about six months because the bones have to grow together. You will probably work with a physical therapist during your recovery to safely regain strength and flexibility.

For more information on SI joint problems and minimally invasive SI joint fusion, or to make an appointment with the doctors at NeuroMicroSpine, please call (850) 934-7545 or click here to request an appointment. We hope to see you soon!

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.