Contact Us
patient portal

Could SI Joint Cause Back and Leg Pain?

The sacroiliac (SI) joint joins the base of the spine to the pelvis. You might not even know that you have one until this important part of your musculoskeletal system develops a problem. SI joint dysfunction can cause severe, chronic leg and back pain which may prevent you from doing all the things you need or want to do in life. Take a moment to explore the connection between SI joint dysfunction and back or leg pain, along with the available solutions for getting this problem under control.

Understanding SI Joint Dysfunction

Your spine ends in the pelvis as a triangle-shaped bone called the sacrum. Strong ligaments and muscles attach the sacrum to each side of the ilium, or hip bone, absorbing shocks and jolts while also maintaining the overall stability of the whole assembly as you stand, sit, and move around. When these connective tissues weaken, loosen or stiffen, the resulting instability can cause a painful condition called SI joint dysfunction or sacroiliitis.

Medical science can't point to one single cause of SI joint dysfunction. It often develops temporarily during pregnancy as the SI ligaments loosen, a natural change meant to assist fetal positioning and delivery. Other common causes include injuries sustained in traumatic accidents such as falls.Wear and tear can also produce osteoarthritis in the SI joint.

Symptoms of SI Joint Dysfunction

Symptoms of SI joint dysfunction can resemble those of sciatica. If you have SI joint dysfunction, you may experience:

  • Persistent lower back pain, either on one side of the back or ranging across both sides.
  • Leg pain that typically radiates down the back of the thigh to the knee.
  • Rarely, leg pain that extends beyond the knee into the lower leg.
  • Pain, tightness, or tenderness in the hip or groin.

SI joint dysfunction pain may get worse when you ascend stairs, stand up from a sitting position, or stand or walk for a long period of time.

Treatment for SI Joint Back and Leg Pain

Conservative care may be all you need to overcome a mild or temporary case of SI joint dysfunction. Your doctor may start your treatment with a combination of over-the-counter pain medications and a supportive back brace. Physical therapy exercises can help strengthen the muscles and ligaments tasked with supporting your lower back and pelvic area.

If conservative treatment can't relieve your SI joint dysfunction, you may need to consider back surgery. Thankfully, most SI joint surgeries these days are performed as minimally invasive procedures. The surgeon makes small incisions in one or both buttockes instead of making one long, deep incision, as in traditional back surgery. Using X-ray scanning as a guide, the surgeon then drills some small holes in the sacrum and ilium, inserting bone putty and metal hardware into the holes to stabilize the joint permanently.

Minimally invasive back surgery from SI joint dysfunction only takes about one hour to complete, with patients usually able to go home the same day instead of spending the night in the hospital. You may need to use crutches to get around for a few weeks following your surgery. Even so, you'll most likely enjoy 75 to 80 percent recovery after just one week's recuperation time.

Back Surgery at Prime Surgical Suites

If you believe you might need back surgery to resolve leg and back discomfort related to SI joint dysfunction, the specialists at Prime Surgical Suites can help. Our elite surgeons, state-of-the-art techniques, and new facility all stand ready to correct that nagging SI joint issue and restore your mobility, comfort, and overall quality of life.


At Prime Surgical Suites, we provide state-of-the-art, cost-effective musculoskeletal surgical care in a convenient and comfortable outpatient setting for patients of all ages. Located in RiverCrest Medical Park, we are the region's first outpatient center focused exclusively on orthopedics. Our physician-led center will help restore your active lifestyle and well-being with compassion and orthopedic excellence.