Sacroiliac Dysfunction or Sciatica….which do you have?

I hurt my back, the pain is in my gluts and goes down my leg. I’m pretty sure its sciatica.”


It could be…but sciatica is over-diagnosed, it’s actually more likely that you’re suffering from sacroiliac (SI) dysfunction (and that’s good news).

The term sciatica has become a catch-all for any pain in the lower back or down the leg. However, many types of low back and hip issues cause similar symptoms. The most common injury that mimics sciatica is sacroiliac dysfunction.

What pinches the sciatic nerve?

The sciatic nerve can become pinched due to:

  • Spinal misalignments
  • Disc issues
  • Muscle tension
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal stenosis

What is sacroiliac dysfunction?

Your sacroiliac joints (aka your pelvis) are the bones we sit on and they help to support our spine.

Excessive sitting, a lack of core strength, improper lifting and poor posture all put extra strain on the SI joints which can cause them to “lock up”. When the joints don’t move or align correctly that SI joint dysfunction occurs.

Sacroiliac Syndrome and Piriformis syndrome are closely related and often occur at the same time.


The 2 issues can feel very similar and are often hard to differentiate. Here are a list of their symptoms:

Symptoms of sciatica:

  • Moderate to severe pain in lower back, buttock and legs
  • Numbness or weakness in the lower back, buttock, leg or feet
  • Pain that worsens with activity/movement
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Burning pain in legs that may not be accompanied by back pain
  • “Pins and needles” in the legs, or feet
  • In severe cases loss of bowel and bladder control (due to cauda equina)

Symptoms of SI joint dysfunction:

  • Moderate to severe pain in the lower back that may shoot down the leg
  • Pain and tension often made worse by long period of sitting
  • Tension in the buttocks, back of legs and/or IT Band
  • Loss of strength in the buttocks and leg (leg may feel like it wants to buckle)
  • Groin pain
  • Pain when first getting up from a sitting position or changing positions
  • Pain on the inside of the knee


How else can you tell the difference?

One clue is how far the pain radiates. Pain from the SI joint doesn’t usually travel beyond the knee, but can cause calf tension.

However, both conditions can lead to calf tension and plantar fascitis.

Sacroiliac pain is very common in people who sit for long periods of time, and unless the condition is severe, sacroiliac pain often improves during short walks.

The only reliable way to determine whats causing your symptoms is to see a chiropractor who has the training and experience to diagnose your issue.

The good news is that sacroiliac syndrome is far more common than sciatica and tends to resolve more quickly!

We’ve helped thousands of people with both SI dysfunction and sciatica feel like themselves and ensure the issues don’t return.

Here’s a simple stretch for piriformis syndrome:

Stretching your piriformis regularly can alleviate some tension without ever leaving your desk. Taking a walk after after you do your stretching can make you results last even longer. If you have any pain when doing this exercise or unsure of your technique please wait and speak to one of the doctors or massage therapists on your visit.

How to do the stretch properly: 

  • Simply place one foot on top of the other creating a “figure 4”.
  • Please one hand gently on your knee and the other hand on your ankle.
  • Be sure to be sitting tall when performing this exercise.
  • You’ll feel a stretch in the hip and buttock of the crossed leg.
You can intensify this stretch by bending at the waist and bringing your chest closer to your leg. Be sure to breathe in order to help the muscle relax. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
The same area can be stretched when lying down. many people with knee issues or a lack of flexibility find this position more comfortable.
Whichever position allows you to stay relaxed as you stretch as you feel the muscle slowly releasing…that’s the position that’s best for you.
Below are videos with more details of each stretch:

For more information on sacroiliac syndrome, sciatica and how to sit to avoid these issues please watch the videos below:

Dr. Laina Shulman

Dr. Laina Shulman

Dr. Laina Shulman is the co-founder of Pure-Health Wellness, a practicing chiropractor, and the Director of Shulman Weight Loss London. With a belief that wellness is the foundation of a fulfilling life, she empowers her patients with simple strategies to regain and maintain their health.