The sacroiliac joint (SI joint) is the joint that connects the iliac bone to the sacrum. The sacrum is the lowest part of the spine and located just above the tailbone. The SI joint is located in the pelvis.
This joint has an important job, which is to help transfer weight between the upper body and the legs. The SI joint also plays an important role in transferring energy between the legs and torso.
In some instances, chronic pain in the lower back is caused by an injury to the sacroiliac joint. An effective treatment option for back pain caused by an injured SI joint is sacroiliac joint fusion. For those who want to learn more about this type of treatment, here are five things to know about SI joint fusion.
Know When SI Joint Fusion Is Necessary
A common cause of SI dysfunction is prior lumbar fusion. An SI injury is also the result of a fall, work injury, or a car accident. Pregnancy can also cause added stress to this joint. Other causes of SI joint pain include sacroiliac joint arthritis, traumatic birth, leg length discrepancy, and gait abnormalities. Anything that causes the ligaments in the pelvis to become too loose or too tight often results in SI joint strain.
Besides chronic pain in the lower back, people who have trouble with their SI joint may also feel pain in the buttocks or groin. This pain might radiate to the lower hip or upper thigh. Numbness or tingling in the leg is also a symptom of SI joint dysfunction.
Many people try pain medications, physical therapy, or injection therapy to treat their SI pain. These types of treatments are effective for some people. However, when pain caused by an SI injury begins to interfere with walking, climbing stairs, sitting, or sleeping, it’s time to consider SI joint fusion.
Know What’s Involved in SI Joint Fusion
SI joint fusion is typically performed by a neurosurgeon. SI joint fusion is a minimally invasive surgery that requires a very small incision in the buttocks. The surgeon performing the procedure then drills holes into the sacrum and ilium. Implants, which are usually made from titanium, are placed into the holes.
These implants help the joint to become more stable. Implants also provide an increased capacity to bear weight. When the SI joint is stable, function is restored and pain is alleviated. The entire procedure takes approximately one hour. Patients can expect to be in the hospital overnight in recovery.
Following the procedure, a walker is often recommended for 4 to 6 weeks, but is optional. It usually takes up to six months for those who undergo SI joint fusion to fully return to their usual activities. Another type of SI joint fusion involves open surgery. During this type of procedure, a piece of bone is taken from the pelvis and placed inside the SI joint.
This type of surgery is becoming less common, as minimally invasive SI joint fusion is more effective for treating SI joint pain and dysfunction. The type of surgery necessary largely depends upon the cause of SI joint pain.
Know How to Prevent Recurrences Following SI Joint Fusion
While SI joint fusion improves function and decreases pain, those who undergo the procedure still need to take certain precautions in order to avoid recurrence. Following the recommended recovery time, you need to remember to use proper lifting techniques and maintain good posture when sitting, standing, and sleeping.
Other ways to avoid recurrences of SI joint injury and pain include:
- Engage in regular exercises that involve stretching and strengthening
- Maintain a healthy weight and lean body mass
- Set up an ergonomically-friendly work environment
You can also avoid smoking and learn to manage stress to decrease the chances of recurrence.
Know the Benefits of SI Joint Fusion
Besides being a minimally invasive procedure with a short recovery time, there are many benefits of SI joint fusion. One such benefit is its high success rate. Of those who have undergone SI joint fusion, 82% of patients stated that they were satisfied with the short and long-term results of the procedure.
The greatest benefit is returning to everyday activities with reduced amounts of pain or no pain at all. According to one study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), one year after having SI joint fusion, 98% of the patients experienced significant benefits of having the procedure.
Know Who to Contact About SI Joint Fusion
If you live in Southwest Florida and are experiencing sacroiliac joint pain, you need to find the best medical facility to help you with the SI joint fusion procedure.
Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates. Has over 20 years of experience helping patients find relief. Our neurosurgeons perform the minimally invasive SI joint fusion using the iFuse Implant System. One of our neurosurgeons, Dr. Savage, is the first person in Lee County, Florida, to have training in the iFuse Implant System.