The sacroiliac joints are located in a pair at the base of the spine, where it meets the pelvic bones. The left and right joints work together to bear weight and stabilize the spine during movement. When one or both joints become inflamed, a person is likely to experience chronic lower back pain and a limited range of motion. Doctors can decide how to treat sacroiliac inflammation by identifying the underlying causes and the severity of symptoms. Most people can recover by avoiding strenuous activity and taking anti-inflammatory drugs, though serious cases may necessitate surgery and follow-up physical therapy to regain strength and flexibility.
Inflammation of sacroiliac joint tissue can be caused by a direct injury, overuse, arthritis, or a severe infection. Some women experience symptoms during pregnancy due to increased pressure on the pelvis. In addition, immune system disorders that cause psoriasis and other inflammatory reactions can also lead to sacroiliac joint problems. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and usually include radiating pain at the site of the joints, fatigue, fever, and a loss of flexibility in the back. A person may also notice itchy, red skin at the base of the spine.
It is important to speak with a doctor at the first sign of back pain so an accurate diagnosis can be made. A physician can diagnose sacroiliac problems by conducting a physical examination, asking about symptoms, and taking x-rays of the joints. It is important for the doctor to investigate the underlying cause, so he or she can properly treat sacroiliac inflammation.
In mild cases where the cause is determined to be an acute injury or overuse of the joints, doctors usually suggest that patients treat sacroiliac inflammation at home. Patients are often instructed to rest their backs and avoid intense physical activity for several days or weeks. Ice packs can be used help to numb the pain and reduce swelling, and applying topical ointments can soothe irritated skin tissue. Many patients take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications to further reduce symptoms. When a person follows his or her doctors orders to treat sacroiliac inflammation, symptoms tend to go away in two to four weeks.
If a patient has arthritis or an underlying immune system problem, he or she may need to take specialized prescription medications to find relief. Corticosteroids and high-strength anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to reduce pain and help slow the progression of tissue damage. Doctors also inform their patients of exercises they can perform to maintain flexibility in their sacroiliac joints.
Severe cartilage damage and bone defects do not often respond to medications. An orthopedic surgeon may decide to treat sacroiliac inflammation by conducting a procedure to remove or repair damaged tissue. Following surgery, a patient is usually referred to a physical therapy center. Trainers can help the patient engage in specialized stretching and strengthening exercises to recover from surgery and once again enjoy regular activities.