Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction and Sciatica can often be confused with each other. This is because the pain map tends to be very similar in both cases. That being said, it is important to understand the differences between these two sources of pain to ensure the most adequate treatment for the person suffering with pain.
For those who have been diagnosed with Sacroiliac joint dysfunction or who have struggled with sciatic pain, you may have heard this explanation before. But for the millions of people who are suffering day to day, not knowing the exact cause of your shooting pain, these are some key points to help you tell the difference between Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction and Sciatica.
The Sacroiliac joint can be found next to the base of the spine, and above the tailbone. The Sacroiliac (SI) joint exists to connect the sacrum (triangle bone at the bottom of the spine) to your pelvic bone (the iliac crest).
While most joints in our body provide a range of movement, the SI joint offers very minimal movement. Instead, it is known for its strength and its ability to absorb the sock from your body movements. It is reinforced by a series of strong ligaments that surround the joint.
The thought surrounding SI joint pain is that a change in the normal movement of the joint is the cause of SI joint pain.
One cause of pain related to the SI joint is instability. This is when there is too much movement of the SI joint. This can cause inflammation leading to pain that is felt in the low back and pelvic area.
Another cause of SI joint pain is fixation. This refers to when there is not enough movement of the SI joint. Fixation can also cause inflammation to the SI joint, leading to pain in the buttock and down the legs.
When the SI joint becomes inflamed, this can then lead some irritation to the sciatic nerve, specifically the portion of the nerve that runs just in front of the joint.
Seeking medical attention for Sacroiliac joint pain is advised both for treatment, pain control and also to rule out any other serious medical problems.
Sciatica is often described as an electrical shock that runs from the low back, down the leg. Usually, the pain that is felt in the leg is worse than the pain felt in the low back.
Typically with Sciatica, one side of the lower body is affected with a sharp, electrical pain radiating from the low back, down the thigh, past the knee and down to the foot. Those suffering from Sciatica can also experience numbness in the affected leg, pins and needles, and the pain tends to ease when the person is lying down or is walking. The pain then becomes worse when the person is standing or sitting down.
Sciatica is commonly caused by a compressed sciatic nerve root. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic never runs from the low back, down the buttock and down the back of each leg. Nerve roots branch out from different levels of the lower spine. Depending on which level the nerve root is exiting from, the pain sensation and the affected area can differ slightly.
Sciatica can vary among those who are affected. For example, Sciatic pain can be infrequent, occurring only with certain movements and can be more of an irritant than anything. Sciatica can also be temporary, and can resolve itself in some cases. Of course, Sciatic pain can also be constant and debilitating for some.
Seeking medical attention for sciatic pain is advised both for treatment, pain control and also to rule out any other serious medical problems.