Disclosure: This post is sponsored by SI-BONE.
Low Back Pain After Pregnancy? Check Your SI Joint.
Patients and doctors alike often overlook a fairly common source of lower back pain, especially in women who have had a baby: the sacroiliac joint, or SI joint for short.
You may be all too familiar with persistent lower back pain and you may feel it is somehow related to your pregnancy. You may have even read about pelvic girdle pain, also called postpartum pelvic girdle pain or PPGP. It’s a major health issue among women who have given birth.
The fact is, about 25% of women experience lower back pain after their pregnancy. A real frustration for many mothers.
What’s more startling? Nearly 5% of all pregnant women continue to have PPGP three years following delivery.
If you happen to be one of these women, and you’ve been searching for answers, it’s time to consider your SI joint.
If you’ve never heard of your SI joint, you’re not alone. Your SI joints are located on the backside of the pelvis. They link the iliac bones (pelvis) to the sacrum (the lowest part of your spine above the tailbone). They aren’t something you typically think about, unless they’re causing pain.
The SI joint provides stability for the pelvis and bears and transfers the load from the upper body to your hips and legs.
The underlying causes of PPGP caused by SI joint dysfunction are not well defined, but doctors believe it is most likely due to a combination of hormonal, biomechanical, and traumatic factors.
Is Your Pain Caused by the SI Joint?
As it turns out, the SI joint is a source of pain in approximately 75% of women with persistent PPGP. So it’s definitely worth exploring if you think it’s affecting you.
So how do you know if the SI joint is the cause of your pain? Ask yourself these nine questions:
- Do you have pain in the low back or buttocks?
- Does the pain radiate down the back of the leg, similar to sciatica pain?
- Is the area directly over the SI joint sensitive to touch?
- Do you have pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs?
- Do you have hip or groin pain?
- Does the pain disturb your sleep?
- Do you ever have a feeling of instability, like your leg is buckling or giving away?
- Do you have to adjust your sitting patterns to avoid pain? For example, are you unable to sit for long periods of time or do you sit on one side?
- Does it hurt when you go from sitting to standing?
If you have any of these symptoms, you should ask your doctor if your pain might be caused by your SI joint. Only your doctor can determine whether your pain is caused by your SI joint or something else.
Your doctor will ask several questions, similar to the ones I’ve described. He or she will also ask you to point to where ithurts, share when the pain began, and talk about any history of injury.
If the timing of your pain correlates to any of your pregnancies, be sure to share that, too.
Your doctor will also ask you to stand, sit, or move in varying directions. Unfortunately, x-rays or other types of imaging are not very helpful in identifying SI joint disorders, but if your doctor suspects your SI joint, a key component in providing an accurate diagnosis is getting a diagnostic injection into the joint with a local anesthetic.
If It’s Your SI Joint, You Have Options
Both non-surgical and surgical treatment options are available for people who have SI joint pain. Non-surgical treatment options may include:
- Oral pain medications (NSAIDs, opioids, etc.)
- Activity modification
- Physical therapy
- SI belting (a non-elastic strap placed temporarily around the pelvic joints)
- Therapeutic SI joint injections (injections every 2-3 months that temporarily reduce the pain)
If you experience ongoing or recurrent pain after 6 months or more of appropriate non-surgical treatment, a minimally invasive surgical procedure to fuse the SI joint may be an option.
The iFuse Procedure, available since 2009, has clinically demonstrated improvement in pain, patient function, and quality of life.
If your pain started right before, during, or after giving birth, don’t delay talking to your doctor. People who experienced pregnancy-related pain and who received the iFuse procedure experienced significant long-term pain reduction and marked improvement in physical function and in quality of life. We doctors love to see that.
Curious whether your SI joint is the cause of your low back pain? Start by taking the short SI pain quiz to find out.
For a complete listing of the references used to create this article, click here.
Contact Dr. McCarthy’s office using the info below ::
Address: 7301 Hennessy Blvd, Suite 300, Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Dr. Kevin McCarthy, M.D., is a Board Certified Orthopedic Spine surgeon at The Spine Center at Bone and Joint Clinic at Baton Rouge in Baton Rouge, LA. He currently specializes in treatment of all spinal disorders with a special emphasis in minimally invasive spine surgery, spinal deformity and cervical spine procedures. Dr. McCarthy graduated from Michigan State University with high honors and a Bachelor of Science Degree in human physiology. He received his Medical Degree from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan in 1999, graduating in the top twenty percent of his class. He continued his training at Tulane Medical Center by completing an orthopedic residency there in 2004. He served as Administrative Chief Resident from July of 2003 to June of 2004. In 2005, Dr. McCarthy completed a fellowship in pediatric and adult spine surgery.
The iFuse Implant System ® is intended for sacroiliac fusion for conditions including sacroiliac joint dysfunction that is a direct result of sacroiliac joint disruption and degenerative sacroiliitis. This includes conditions whose symptoms began during pregnancy or in the peripartum period and have persisted postpartum for more than 6 months.
There are potential risks associated with the iFuse Implant System. It may not be appropriate for all patients and all patients may not benefit. For information about the risks, talk to your doctor and visit: https://si-bone.com/si-joint-pain-treatment/ifuse-implant-system/risks
Women of childbearing potential should be cautioned that vaginal delivery of a fetus may not be advisable following SI joint fusion. If pregnancy occurs, the woman should review delivery options with her obstetrician.