What is a Sacroiliac Strain?

M.J. Brower

Sacroiliac strain is a painful tightening of the ligaments that support the sacroiliac joints (SI joints), the two joints on either side of the pelvis. It usually is first noticed as a pain in the lower back, or on one hip or buttock. The pain can extend down the leg or all the way around to the groin, and to the testicles in men. Sometimes the referred leg or back pain is mistaken for sciatica.

Long-distance driving may cause sacroiliac strain.
Long-distance driving may cause sacroiliac strain.

The sacroiliac joints connect the sacrum, a series of five vertebrae in the lower back, and the hip bones, or ilia. These joints are connected by a strong set of ligaments that protect the joints, and also limit their motion somewhat. When the ligaments are injured or become inflamed, joint pain and sacroiliac joint dysfunction may result.

Spinal arthritis may cause sacroiliac strain.
Spinal arthritis may cause sacroiliac strain.

The SI joint is particularly vulnerable in women during pregnancy, when the ligaments loosen in preparation for birth. The sacroiliac joints hold up the weight of the entire upper body, so the extra weight of pregnancy can make sacroiliac pain worse. Other things that can cause sacroiliac strain are prolonged periods of lifting, long-distance driving, traumatic injury to the area, and inflammatory diseases such as spinal arthritis.

Pain in the lower back is an early sign of sacroiliac strain.
Pain in the lower back is an early sign of sacroiliac strain.

Sacroiliac strain can be diagnosed by a doctor, and may be treated with anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, heat therapy, and rest. Physical therapy or chiropractic care might be helpful as well. Most people who suffer a strain can return to normal activities after about a week of treatment, although ongoing treatment may be necessary.

Prolong periods of lifting, such as those required in many delivery professions, can lead to a sacroiliac strain.
Prolong periods of lifting, such as those required in many delivery professions, can lead to a sacroiliac strain.

Sometimes it's impossible to prevent sacroiliac strain, but being mindful during activities such as heavy lifting can help. In the early stages of SI joint pain, it might be useful for sufferers to take a rest from activities that tend to make the pain worse. Some people find that taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can head off an episode of acute pain if taken at the first signs of strain. Stretching and strengthening exercises can also be effective in preventing recurring episodes.

A sacroiliac joint belt might also help alleviate sacroiliac joint pain and prevent it from flaring up. This device is worn around the hips and supports the entire sacroiliac region. For pregnant women, a special maternity belt can relieve extra pressure on the SI joints, even in women who were not prone to sacroiliac strain before pregnancy. There are many different types and brands of belts and other devices for sacroiliac problems; a health care practitioner can guide patients in choosing the right one.

A woman may experience a sacroiliac strain during pregnancy.
A woman may experience a sacroiliac strain during pregnancy.

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Discussion Comments


We used to have a horse that suffered from sacroiliac strain. It's called "jumper's bump" among horse owners because it's often seen in horses who jump a lot.

Since our horses are competitive and they enter races, we had to give him away to a home that wouldn't require him to jump much. I think he is still racing, but only in flat races as a runner.

Sometimes I wonder if we could have kept him but I think that his sacroiliac injury would have given him too much pain to continue with us anyway. I'm glad he has a home where he isn't required to strain himself.


@ankara-- Hey, first of all, I'm sorry you're going through this! I sincerely hope that the physical therapy relieves your pain.

I did not experience sacroiliac strain with any of my pregnancies but my sister has and I can tell you about her experience. She was in the same situation as you and she tried physical therapy and wearing a pregnancy belt first as sacroiliac pain treatment. These helped a little but did not relieve her pain completely.

Then she heard from a coworker about acupuncture for pain relief. She went to three or four acupuncture sessions and it resolved her pain completely.

I don't think her sacroiliac strain caused any problems during labor. She had natural birth too and everything went just fine. I'm sure yours will too.


I'm thirty weeks pregnant with my second child and after having several weeks of pain around my lower back, I found out from my doctor that I have sacroiliac joint strain. She is now sending me to physical therapy. It's still early to know if the physical therapy will work or not but my pain hasn't gotten better. I can't even sleep at night from the pain anymore.

Has anyone had sacroiliac strain due to pregnancy before? If so, how did you deal with it? Since pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs are out of the question, I'm not sure what I will do if physical therapy doesn't help.

Also, will this condition impact my labor at all? I plan on giving birth naturally and I'm not sure if this pain will complicate labor for me.

Please share your experiences and suggestions. I'm badly in need of it!

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