Learn more about Sacroiliac Joint Injections and see if it’s right for you.
Located along each side of the lower spine, the sacroiliac (SI) joint connects the pelvis and a triangular bone at the base of the spine (sacrum). If this joint is irritated, it may become inflamed enough to cause dull, sharp pain.
- The pain can be felt in lower back and extend to limbs and other areas
- An SI joint injection can confirm a suspected diagnosis
- Can also provide relief by targeting the joint
- The center portion of the disc can rupture (called a herniated disc)
- Most often located in lower back, between fourth and fifth vertebrae
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SI Joint Injections to Make a Diagnosis
When used for diagnostic purposes, an SI joint injection can confirm sacroiliac joint dysfunction as a source of radiating nerve pain. Injections for this nature are administered with a local anesthetic. A contrast dye injected with the anesthetic is viewed with a special live X-ray to ensure correct placement of the injection.
If a patient reports about 75 or 80 percent relief from pain, a second injection is done to see if results can be duplicated. If this is what happens, a diagnosis of SI joint dysfunction is usually made. A lateral branch block is another procedure sometimes done to diagnose SI joint issues.
Pain Relief with SI Joint Injections
The purpose of therapeutic SI joint injections is to provide temporary relief from pain related to this joint. It’s done the same way a diagnostic injection is done, expect that an anti-inflammatory medication, usually a corticosteroid, is also included with the local anesthetic. There may be some degree of immediate relief from the local anesthetic and a slight increase in pain when it wears off until the medication starts to work within the joint. It only takes a few minutes to complete the procedure, although patients may be monitored for about half an hour or so afterwards to make sure there are no adverse reactions.
Possible Benefits for Patients
Patients who respond well to SI joint injections are often encouraged to actively participate in a personalized physical therapy routine. Injections do not treat the actual source of pain. PT exercises, however, may help strengthen supporting muscles around the SI joint and lower spine to further minimize nerve irritation.
Long-Term Results from Injections
Pain relief from therapeutic injections sometimes last for several months. If patients are reporting noticeable relief from pain from the injection, the procedure may be safely repeated up to three times within a year. There may be a point when injections are no longer necessary if physical therapy strengthens muscles and improves posture enough to ease nerve irrigation near the SI joint.
Sacroiliac joint pain is often confused with irritation of the nearby sciatic nerve, another common source of radiating nerve pain, or nerve compression due to lumbar disc herniation. A diagnosis confirmed with an SI injection can allow treatment efforts to be directed at the right source of pain. Additional relief with SI injections may be experienced if patients make adjustments to posture, perform muscle strengthening exercises during physical therapy, and stick to a nutrient-rich diet.