Few people have heard of the sacroiliac joint, although it is the strongest, most functionally important joint in the entire human structure. It supports the weight of the entire upper body and diffuses it throughout the pelvic area, much like a shock absorber. Problems with this joint - specifically what is known as sacroiliac joint dysfunction - are often the cause of sciatic pain.
Sacroiliac Joint Location
At the base of the spine and intersecting with the pelvic bone is the double-pronged sacroiliac joint. This is a weight-bearing joint and has a healthy system of ligaments. The two "connector prongs" have an incredible interlocking design that restricts the motion of the sacroiliac joint.
Lower back pain often results from the inflammation or irritation of the sacroiliac joint. If this is not properly treated, arthritis will form. Joint deterioration and final breakdown does not happen overnight. It often takes years until recognition of this problem leads to proper diagnosis and treatment.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction presents obvious symptoms of pain and inflammation, which receive the standard, run-of-the-mill, therapeutic treatments. Injections, medications, gentle exercise or physical therapy help to ease the symptoms. But it is a rare for a primary care physician to investigate further for underlying causes.
Researchers have determined that muscular imbalance is a cause of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Postural inconsistencies occur as the result of those muscular imbalances. The condition escalates into disabling inflammation and pain.
An astute medical professional will suspect muscular system involvement. Out of necessity, the surgeon may perform a tight muscle release followed by rehabilitative therapy. Physicians generally will try to avoid invasive procedures, so surgery is rare.
Sciatic Nerve Location
The sciatic nerve is the biggest and thickest nerve in the body. The source of the nerve is in the lower back where spinal nerve roots sprout and then combine into a single nerve. This large nerve snakes through the pelvic region and emerges at the top of each leg. It then proceeds to branch into many thinner nerves that nourish the sensations of each lower limb.
The main portion of the sciatic nerve forms in the pelvis when the spinal nerve roots merge. Pain could result if a nerve root catches in the bony spinal structure above the sacroiliac joint. The pelvic structure also contains many other structures: tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones. Bone involvement can pinch one or more of the spinal nerve roots.
Sciatic Nerve Pain
Piriformis pain syndrome is the result of the sciatic nerve passing through the piriformis muscle structure before exiting the pelvic area. In most people, the sciatic nerve passes behind the piriformis muscle and continues to the leg. However, others have a sciatic nerve that passes through the piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle traps the nerve, which is okay - until the muscle becomes irritated and squeezes into spasm.
Ischemia is a situation where nerve tissue suffers oxygen deprivation. Oxygen deprivation commonly causes painful back and leg conditions. The sciatic nerve tissue is particularly vulnerable to lack of oxygen from its roots in the lower spine to the lowest point of nerve tissue in the leg. Sciatic oxygen deprivation pain is symptomatic of disease or structural malfunction.
Sacroiliac Joint Meets Sciatic Nerve
Sciatica pain is a symptom. A series of medical tests would be necessary to determine the exact condition of which it is a symptom. Classically, sciatica manifests as low back pain or a burning, tingling pain that intensifies as pressure increases.
X-rays, magnetic imaging films and blood tests can help medical professionals determine if the underlying problem lies in the interaction between the sacroiliac joint and the sciatic nerve. Unusual or unbalanced muscle structure and scoliosis are just two of several conditions that may need attention.