The point at which the upper and lower portions of the body meet and join, the sacroiliac is also where the spine connects to the pelvis and where the weight of the top half of our bodies is transferred to the lower half of our bodies.
Because the sacroiliac joint bears a great deal of stress and strain in the course of normal life and activity, many cases of lower back pain arise there; indeed, it’s estimated that as much as 25 percent of all lower back pain can be traced to this area, often a result of cauda equina syndrome or sciatica or from a bulging, ruptured or herniated disc. Difficult pregnancies, arthritis, injuries and previous surgeries can also result in pain emanating from the sacroiliac joint.
Typical and conservative treatments for sacroiliac joint issues include rest and cessation of activities coupled with pain- and inflammation relieving medications; physical therapy to build muscle strength and maintain flexibility and a proper range of motion; a belt device that can provide support for the lower back by squeezing together the hips and stabilizing the joints; and injections of medications into the affected joint.
However, when these traditional treatments fail to provide relief of symptoms, a procedure known as sacroiliac joint fusion may be recommended. The surgery fuses together two pieces of bone with the implantation of a graft in order to form one solid and much stronger bone. The stability created by this fusion eliminates motion in the joint causing the pain while also preventing changes in the surrounding muscles and ligaments that can lead to further discomfort.
Under general anesthesia, the patient is placed face down and a surgeon makes a small incision just above the sacroiliac joint. Muscles and other tissues are retracted in order to gain a clear path to the affected area, and the lining of cartilage on the interior surface of the joint is cleared away before the bone graft is implanted and secured with a plate and screws. All together this fuses the joint together and provides solid stability in the area.
After discharge from the hospital, post-surgery a patient will likely be given physical therapy treatments to help regain mobility and flexibility while building up muscles that support the lower back. It will take several months for the graft to fully fuse the sacroiliac joint, so a physician will caution against over-exertion in daily activities until proper and full healing has occurred.