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
- 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:
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.