Sacroiliac joint dysfunction, also known as sacroiliitis, is a painful lower spine condition. It’s a common cause of lower back pain. The condition is caused by inflammation of a sacroiliac joint. This joint connects the pelvis to the spine.

There are two sacroiliac joints: one on each side of the spine. The joints connect the bone at the bottom of your vertebrae with the top part of the pelvis. Sacroiliitis can affect one or both of the joints.

Pain from the condition can occur in the lower back and the buttocks. Sometimes, sacroiliitis can send pain down one or both legs. Fortunately, there are several therapy options available to treat this condition.

Discover common treatment options for lower back pain »

Treating sacroiliitis with medications can help relieve symptoms. It can also improve your quality of life. The right medication therapy for you will depend on the cause of your condition and how bad it is.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help relieve pain. Sometimes over-the-counter pain relievers can’t do the job. If that happens for you, talk to your doctor about higher dose prescription drugs. Muscle spasms caused by sacroiliitis can be treated with muscle relaxants.

One type of sacroiliitis is associated with a type of rheumatoid arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Part of AS treatment often includes TNF inhibitors. These are medications that can help reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms.

Physical therapy (PT) can help maintain flexibility and strength in the sacroiliac joint. It is often used along with medications. PT exercises include those designed to improve range of motion and to build stability. Proper stretching is also a key part of physical therapy to treat sacroiliitis.

Your PT routine may include stretching and strengthening exercises for the muscles in your lower back. These exercises can also help muscles that support your hips and pelvis. Other exercises may include those to help improve the motion of the joint. Ice and heat treatments are also part of physical therapy.

Another important aspect of PT is learning proper posture. Good posture may relieve unnecessary strain on your sacroiliac joint. You’ll also learn about the right ways to bend, lift, and do other actions.

If your walking ability is compromised by sacroiliitis, physical therapists can work on gait training or help you learn to use walkers or other assistive devices.

In addition to strengthening and range-of-motion exercises, treatment for sacroiliac joint dysfunction may also include manual therapy. Manual therapy targets the specific area with hands-on techniques to ease symptoms and improve mobility. This can include a variety of treatments, including massage therapy and joint mobilization.

Another example of manual therapy is electrotherapy. This treatment uses electrical energy to stimulate soft tissue in joints that are suffering from limited mobility.

Of course, before you can take advantage of any of these therapies, you have to get a proper diagnosis of your back pain. Symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction can be similar to those associated with a herniated disk or sciatica, a nerve problem affecting the lower back. So you may face a challenge in getting sacroiliitis diagnosed.

An X-ray or an MRI of the affected joint can help diagnose the problem. Another way to diagnose sacroiliac joint dysfunction is to inject a numbing medication into the joints to see if they help relieve the discomfort in the joint. If the injections are effective, then it’s likely that sacroiliac joint dysfunction was the problem.

Once you have a definitive diagnosis, you can start to explore your treatment options. Given the effectiveness of some of these therapies, relief may be just around the corner.