top of page

What's a Sacroiliac?


The biggest single cause of back pain and dysfunction we see as chiropractors is a joint that most people have never heard of. The sacroiliac joints are found close to the dimples in the low back, continuing downward 2 to 3 inches. They are formed from the sacrum, which is the large triangular bone at the base of the spine, and the two pelvic or iliac bones on either side of the sacrum. This area acts as the foundation for the rest of the vertebral column and ultimately bears the weight of the head, shoulders and upper body.

The sacroiliac joints are also the link between the spine and the legs. Their efficient function is necessary to allow smooth movement while walking and to dampen the shock to the spine of the heel striking the ground. Problems can arise when one or both sacroiliac joints no longer move normally. Such abnormalities are much more common than is generally realized.


The high incidence of sacroiliac dysfunction can be attributed to slips, falls, sports injuries, work injuries, high heels, improper sitting or standing posture and - most significantly - to the trend in our society toward more sitting and less walking. It can begin as early as infancy with repeated falls while learning to walk. Because the child’s body compensates so easily for imbalances, there is often no lasting pain at the time and the incident is quickly forgotten.

Chronic sacroiliac dysfunction can be the cause of low back pain and stiffness, leg, groin and hip pain. Muscular asymmetry or imbalance resulting from sacroiliac problems can lead to knee and ankle problems, as well as foot and heel pain.

An acute sacroiliac strain produces severe localized pain, muscle spasm, difficulty in straightening up or lifting the leg, and pain with any sudden movement. This often represents an actual joint sprain with spasm of the surrounding muscles in an attempt to protect the joint by preventing movement. The muscle spasms usually do limit movement very effectively, if painfully, and it is the muscle spasms rather than the injured joint which produce the most acute pain. For this reason pain is often felt at a different location from the actual injury. Sacroiliac strains are frequently misdiagnosed as disc injuries.

A sacroiliac sprain or strain results from a mechanical problem requiring correction. This can only be accomplished by restoring proper movement to the involved areas of the spine and pelvis. Bed rest, traction, sedation and supports will not correct the underlying cause. These measures, over a long period of time, may eventually bring relief but the problem will remain. For this reason painful episodes will usually follow, often with increasing frequency and severity.

Acute sacroiliac strain will heal much more quickly if proper joint movement is restored. Chiropractors are experienced in restoring joint movement to minimize pain and muscle spasm and can recommend the best rehabilitative exercise program.

The best approach to sacroiliac problems is to avoid them through prevention. Your chiropractor is able to evaluate the functioning of your spinal and pelvic joints and correct improper movement before it results in pain. If you have had a sacroiliac strain in the past, it is even more important to have the cause corrected before another episode begins.

bottom of page