Lower back pain is a common issue among people all over the world. As per estimates, about 80% of the people in the US experience pain in their lower back at some time during their lives. It is also the leading cause of missed days at the office. There are many reasons for this lower back pain and the most common being SI joint pain and dysfunction. To get relief from this pain many people opt for various treatment options including chiropractic treatment. It helps in regaining lower back functioning and provides pain-relief without any harmful side-effects. Read below to learn more about how to treat SI joint pain and dysfunction using chiropractic care.
What is Sacroiliac Joint Pain?
These are joints that are present where the ilium and the sacrum meet. These joints support the entire weight of the body and are the shock absorber for the spine. The bones of the SI joints are filled with fluid for lubrication and with free nerve endings. These nerve endings are the ones that communicate with the brain by sending pain signals. When the sacroiliac joints are damaged it leads to sacroiliac joint pain.
The leading cause of pain in SI joints is when the cartilage that holds the joints swell due to the misalignment of the joints. The swelling can lead to stress in the cartilage and that increases the pain and misalignment.
Symptoms of SI joint pain
The symptoms of SI joint disorders vary from person to person but some of the common symptoms are:
- Lower back pain
- Pain in pelvis, hips, groin, and buttock
- Increase in pain when shifting position from sitting to standing
- Stiffness in the pelvis
- Weakness and numbness
- Feeling that you may fall down as the legs lack strength
- Pain trickling down to thighs and legs
Chiropractic treatment to reduce SI joint pain
People who are suffering from buttock pain and lower back pain due to the SI joint can get relief from chiropractic treatment procedures. This is the most conventional treatment option and is the first line of treatment for pain and SI joint dysfunction. There are various manipulations that are adopted by chiropractors. But leading chiropractic care provider AlignMedical.com suggests that the best method is the one that provides the best results. Also, the method used should be the one that the patient can tolerate and respond better. There is no one-fit treatment as every patient responds differently to manipulation methods.
Ultrasound: This is the first line of treatment for SI joints. The heat waves from the ultrasound go deep into the muscles and increase the blood circulation. It also makes the connective tissues warm because it stretches more with less pain. An adjustment of the SI joint is sometimes followed by the ultrasound so as to realign it and get pain relief.
Ice and heat therapy: This is also a common treatment provided by chiropractors and is effective for SI joint dysfunction. Ice therapy is provided if there is any inflammation so that the small blood vessels are blocked and the swelling reduces. After this, heat and ice are alternatively used to get pain relief.
Spinal manipulation: It is a chiropractic adjustment of the SI joint. The patient lays on the side with the top knee bent and raised to the chest. The lower back and the pelvic region is stretched by placing the bottom shoulder forward. The chiropractor applies pressure on the sacroiliac joint while ensuring the patient’s upper shoulder is tractioned. The other knee is pushed to the floor to create tension. When the patient is comfortable, a low amp, high voltage thrust is applied by the chiropractor.
When the thrust is applied, there will be a release called cavitation which sounds like a crack. After an initial feeling of discomfort, it brings great relief after it is done. For those who do not like this cracking sound or feel uncomfortable, a gentler approach called the spine mobilisation is applied.
Spinal mobilisation: Many patients prefer a gentler treatment when compared to spinal manipulation for their sacroiliac joint dysfunction. It involves slow, low-velocity techniques which are less forceful. The joints remain in its passive range of motion, and these gentle techniques include:
- Respiratory-assisted techniques: The patient is asked to take deep breaths and the chiropractor gently pulls the affected leg at an angle to make the adjustment.
- Gravity traction: Blocks that have pads in many shapes and sizes are placed under the body strategically. The chiropractor repositions the SI joints using the help of gravity from the block instead of applying force.
- Drop approach: A special chiropractic table that has movable sections is used for this. This table acts along the same line as the thrust moves up and down helping with the adjustments.
- Activator: It is a specialised adjusting tool with springs in it. This device will provide a low-force thrust at specific locations on the spine.
Muscle relaxation technique: These are used to reduce the strain on the SI joints due to tight muscles. Some of the muscles that may need to be stretched are hamstrings, adductors, piriformis, TFL, low-back paraspinal muscles, etc. Therapeutic massage is also a great way to relax the muscles and increase the blood flow to promote healing.
Muscle strengthening: Strengthening the core muscles in the body is essential so as to stabilise the SI joints. The stomach and back muscles are those that require special care as they are nor used in everyday activities and hence require strengthening. There are many exercises that are specifically designed to work on these muscles. Abdominal exercises like sit-ups, trunk curl, abdominal bracing are prescribed. For the back muscles, arm and leg raises, cat curls, etc are suggested for chiropractic treatments. Using an exercise ball is recommended as it aids in keeping the body balanced and engages the core muscles.
To treat the SI joint pain and dysfunction, a chiropractor will look at the medical history for existing conditions and perform a physical examination. After which the required treatment plan is drawn up, most choose a whole-body approach than concentrating on specific joints.