How To Manage Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction at Work

December 31, 2018

Young man sitting at work desk with lower back pain.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction causes uncomfortable symptoms, but you can manage p

Young man sitting at work desk with lower back pain.

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Sacroiliac joint (SIJ) pain causes persistent back and leg pain for large numbers of individuals. Between 10 to 30 percent of all people with lower back pain experience symptoms because of sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and 20 to 80 percent of pelvic pain during pregnancy can be attributed to this problem.

Dealing with SIJ pain can be difficult, especially in public spaces like the office. But it's possible to boost your health in the workplace by following simple tips to manage pain. And if you try conservative treatments but still experience pain, your doctor can help you determine whether more intensive therapies may benefit you.

Understanding Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint sits between the iliac crest (part of your pelvic bone) and the sacrum (the lowest portion of your spine). Unlike other joints in your body, the sacroiliac joint doesn't have a large range of motion — instead, the joint's primary purpose is to act as a shock absorber against forces moving between your upper body and your pelvis.

Why sacroiliac joint dysfunction causes pain isn't fully understood, but it's thought that the pain results from too much stress placed on the joint. Additionally, too much movement of the SIJ may cause substantial pain in the back and legs.

Diagnosing SIJ dysfunction

It can be difficult to accurately diagnose SIJ dysfunction because symptoms often mimic those of other medical conditions. SIJ dysfunction symptoms may include:

  1. Lower back pain, pain in the pelvis or buttocks or pain in the hip or groin
  2. Pain, numbness or tingling radiating down one leg
  3. Weakness or a feeling of instability in one leg
  4. Pain when you move from sitting to standing
  5. Sitting on one side of your buttocks or the inability to sit for extended periods of time

Treating SIJ dysfunction

In most cases, doctors first recommend conservative treatments for SIJ dysfunction. Fortunately, many of these therapies can be carried out at work, helping to boost your health in the workplace by allowing you to manage your pain. In all cases, the focus is on restoring normal motion to the sacroiliac joint and preventing further strain.

Your doctor recommends the best treatments for you based on your unique needs. You may benefit from one or a variety of treatments, including:

  1. Rest, ice or heat
  2. Wearable supports or braces
  3. Medications, such as anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications

If these therapies aren't effective, you may consider more aggressive methods of dealing with SIJ. Doctors often recommend chiropractic manipulation of the SIJ. Additionally, physical therapy can be extremely beneficial for people suffering from SIJ dysfunction. Your physical therapist can help strengthen your SIJ through interventions including:

  1. Repetitive exercises
  2. Massage
  3. Manual joint mobilization
  4. Aerobic conditioning
  5. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

In rare cases, injections or surgery are necessary to manage SIJ dysfunction.

Fortunately, most conservative treatments are easy to perform in the privacy of your workstation. Other interventions, like repetitive exercises, can also be completed at work, although you may find it beneficial to seek out a private room to do so. Many workplaces offer quiet rooms and spaces, and you may be able to ask your supervisor if you can use unattended meeting rooms or offices during your recovery.

Instead of suffering from your symptoms, you can take steps every day to manage pain and support the healing of your sacroiliac joint. Before beginning any treatments, it's important to check with your doctor to make sure you stay as safe as possible. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment plan for you based on your unique symptoms and needs.

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