What is Sacroiliitis?

Sacroiliitis is a condition that causes inflammation of one, or possibly both, of your sacroiliac joints. The sacroiliac joints are located at the connection of the pelvis and the lower back. This condition is mostly marked for causing pain in the lower back, buttocks, and even down one or both legs. The condition, and the pain, can be made worse by climbing stairs, standing for long periods of time, or laying on one side with pressure directly on the hip for long periods of time.

Sacroiliitis is a difficult condition to diagnose. This is because it can easily be mistaken for a pinched sciatic nerve, or other conditions that cause lower back pain. However, once medical imaging has been completed, your physician will notice a condition called inflammatory arthritis of the lower spine. Many patients find some relief from starting physical therapy right after they are diagnosed. However, even if physical therapy relieves some of the pain, your doctor may still need to write a prescription to help you through days when the inflammation is severe.

What are the Symptoms of Sacroiliitis?

If pain is associated with this condition, it is usually located around the lower back, hip girdle, and across the lower back.  The pain can also affect the groin, the legs, and even so far as the feet. If the person who has the condition is extremely active, certain activities can make the pain and tension in the lower back worse.

These activities are:

  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Slouching with more weight on one leg than the other
  • Climbing stairs
  • Running, especially if you run long distances
  • Taking large strides while walking or running

Sacroiliitis Causes

The inflammation of the sacroiliiac joint has many different causes, as there are a number of different issues that affect this joint, the intersection of the base of the spine and pelvis.

The leading causes of sacroiliitis include car accidents, strain, pregnancy and falls. Such traumas or incidents are the source of wear and damage causing the inflammation in approximately 40-50% people.

Degenerative arthritis, also known as osteoarthritis, can also play upon the sacroiliiac joints and lead to the symptomatic inflammation and joint pain. Various joint diseases of the vertebral column, which include ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and reactive arthritis, can lead to this condition as well. Arthritis related to inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, is yet another potential factor in causing sacroiliitis.

Finally, there are some infections which can spread to that specific joint area as well, causing the inflammation.

How is Sacroiliitis Treated?

Your treatment options will depend on the cause of your condition. There are primary ways that the condition develops, but it can also develop from other incidents that are unrelated to the reasons below.

The Most Common Causes of Sacroiliitis Are the Following Conditions Healing Improperly:

  • Traumatic injury – Specifically a sudden, hard impact. This is usually caused by a motor vehicle accident.
  • Arthritis – The type of arthritis known as wear and tear arthritis can develop in sacroiliac joints. This is a type of inflammatory arthritis which can increase the amount of pain experienced.
  • Pregnancy – In order to accommodate pregnancy and childbirth, the sacroiliac joints are required to loosen. As the pregnancy progresses and the mother gains weight, her gait will change. This puts a lot of additional stress on the joints, and can wear them down faster. While there is more pressure on the joints because of physiological changes in pregnancy, the mother could experience a lot of additional pain.
  • Infected Joint – It is extremely rare, but it is possible for the sacroiliac joint to become infected. This will need to be treated by your doctor, possibly in the hospital. Generally, this requires IV antibiotics.

The treatment your doctor feels is best will depend on the symptoms you have, and the reason you developed sacroiliitis.


Once your doctor has determined the cause of your pain, and the depth of your pain, they will be able to recommend the right medication. The most common medications recommended are:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Prescription pain relievers
  • Muscle Relaxers
  • TNF Inhibitors
  • Injections of corticosteroids

Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy to help strengthen your muscles. The stronger the muscles are that surround your injury, the less pain you will experience. Some patients also receive relief from radiofrequency denervation or electrical stimulation.

If your doctor has tried various medications and physical therapy but you have not found relief from the pain associated with your condition, surgery may be an option. Surgery to relieve the discomfort of sacroiliitis usually involves fusing the affected bones together, or using metal pins to hold them in a stationary position and keep them from rubbing against one another.

Prevention of sacroiliitis

In the case that the sacroiliitis might be caused by an inflammatory arthritis, then it is important that early diagnosis and treatment be sought. If the condition is found and the patient receives the necessary treatment early, then the sacroiliitis might be avoided before it has a chance to flourish.

The traumatic injuries should, of course, be avoided as much as possible, but there is no way to eliminate all accidents and chances for an occurrence in that manner. Pregnant women can do some types of exercises which will strengthen the pelvic muscles and the muscles of the lower back. This type of exercise therapy, usually under the direction of a physiotherapist or another trained professional, can help avoid the uneven wear and other problems that can sometimes occur during the course of a pregnancy in some women.

Last Reviewed:
October 10, 2016
Last Updated:
October 31, 2017