If you’ve been in a car accident recently, you may be feeling pain in your lower back, buttocks, hips, or legs.
After consulting Dr. Google, you’ve seen the term “SI joint injury” come up a few times.
So what is the SI joint? And what should you do if you’re suffering from SI joint pain after a car accident?
We’ll explain what you need to know about the sacroiliac joint, what symptoms you may feel if you injure it, and how and when it should be treated.
Table of Contents
- What Is the SI Joint?
- Where Is SI Joint Pain After Car Accidents Generally Felt?
- What Causes SI Joint Pain From Car Accidents?
- Common Symptoms of an SI Joint Injury
- Why SI Joint Injuries Are Often Overlooked: 3 Overlapping Symptoms With Spinal Injuries
- How Is a Diagnosis Made To Differentiate Between an SI Joint Injury and a Spinal Injury?
- Chiropractic Treatments for SI Joint Pain After Car Accidents
- What Can Happen if Treatment Is Delayed?
- Cascade Spine & Injury Center: Helping Find Relief From SI Joint Pain After Car Accidents
What Is the SI Joint?
SI — or sacroiliac — joints connect the sacrum (spine) to the iliac bones (hips). There is one on each side of the spinal column and they link the lower spine to the pelvic area. If you picture the spot between your waist and buttocks where two dimples are sometimes visible, that’s where the SI joints are located.
The health of your SI joints is important because they support your upper body weight when you’re standing. They play a major role in providing stability and absorbing impact when you’re doing activities like lifting things, climbing stairs, and walking.
Where Is SI Joint Pain After Car Accidents Generally Felt?
Wondering if you have an SI joint injury? Car accidents can often cause this complication.
SI joint pain is usually felt in the lower back and buttocks. Some people describe it as hip pain that radiates into one or both of the legs.
What Causes SI Joint Pain From Car Accidents?
SI joint injuries can be common after a car accident in situations where there is a frontal collision. That’s because when the driver presses on the brake during impact, the force can be transferred through their leg and into the SI joint.
This type of injury usually causes the SI joint to become inflamed, which can lead to any or all of the symptoms we discussed above.
Common Symptoms of an SI Joint Injury
SI joint pain usually starts in the lower back and buttocks but can refer to the groin, lower hip, or upper thigh. The pain is often one-sided, but it may happen on both sides.
Symptoms of SI joint injury could include:
- Pain when getting up from a seated position
- Pain when rolling over in bed
- Difficulty standing or walking for extended periods
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Pain when sitting too long or sitting on one side
- Numbness, weakness, and tingling in affected areas
- Leg instability (buckling)
- Irregular sleep patterns due to pain
- Increased urination or urinary incontinence
SI joint pain often worsens with transitional movements. If you are experiencing any symptoms of SI joint pain after a car accident, you should seek medical attention.
Why SI Joint Injuries Are Often Overlooked: 3 Overlapping Symptoms With Spinal Injuries
Because SI joint injury isn’t as common as spinal injury after a car accident, it can often be misdiagnosed. Here are some of the specific reasons SI joint injuries may be misdiagnosed as lumbosacral spinal injuries.
#1: Localized Pain of Both Injuries Tend To Spread Out
Both SI joint pain injuries and lower spinal injuries tend to cause pain that radiates outward from the injury site. So because of where these sites are located, there’s a literal overlap in areas of pain caused by either injury. This is one reason an SI joint injury could be overlooked.
#2: Referred Location of the Pain Can Overlap
Referred pain is when an injury in one part of the body causes discomfort in another place entirely. SI joint and lumbar injuries can both refer to the hip and thigh areas, so it can be confusing as to which specific type of trauma is causing the pain.
#3: Pain With Weight-Bearing Is Typical of Both Injuries
If lumbosacral spinal pain is the result of a disc injury, it can cause difficulty with weight-bearing activities like climbing stairs, standing from a seated position, etc. just like SI joint injury from an auto accident can.
How Is a Diagnosis Made To Differentiate Between an SI Joint Injury and a Spinal Injury?
When attempting to diagnose an SI joint injury and differentiate it from a spinal injury, your doctor may manipulate your joints, feel for tenderness, and ask you to stand or move in different positions to indicate where you are experiencing pain.
Specific tests that can indicate SI joint injury after a car accident include:
- Laslett’s belt test
- Gaenslan’s test
- Thigh thrust/femoral shear test
- Sacral compression
- ASIS distraction — force applied to anterior superior iliac spines
- Patrick’s test — this is also referred to as FABER, which stands for flexion, abduction, and external rotation
Imaging tests like CT and MRI scans or X-rays might also be ordered to assist with diagnosis and check for any other hip- or spine-related issues.
Chiropractic Treatments for SI Joint Pain After Car Accidents
If you don’t want to suffer from chronic pain after your car accident, you should consider visiting a chiropractor for any combination of the following treatments.
Manual Adjustments and Other Modalities
The first thing we will probably recommend to help with your SI joint pain after a car accident is having chiropractic adjustments to remove biomechanical stress from the injured area. These could include:
- Diversified adjustments
- Drop table
- Motion palpatation; or
- Instrument adjusting
We may also suggest using other modalities in combination with manual adjustments to speed healing and decrease inflammation. You can choose from:
- Hot laser
- Interferential current
- And more
Many of our patients report that they start feeling better faster when they use some combination of these treatments.
During massage therapy, trained and fully-licensed therapists will manipulate the soft tissues of your body. These include:
- Connective tissue; and
With varying degrees of pressure, massage therapists will knead, rub, tap, and stroke the soft tissues of your body using their hands, forearms, and elbows. This can be part of an integrative chiropractic treatment plan to help alleviate the swelling and radiating pain caused by SI joint injuries.
Acupuncture is one of the most well-known and oft-practiced components of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves putting very thin needles into the skin at specific places on your body.
If needles worry you, don’t be concerned. They are so small and expertly inserted that many people don’t even feel them and often fall asleep during treatment.
Acupuncture improves the flow of chi, or life energy, throughout the body. This often results in:
- Accelerated healing
- Reduced pain; and
- Improvement of body systems
So it’s a great therapy to combine with chiropractic care in the treatment of SI joint pain from an auto accident.
It’s helpful to participate in rehab exercises after an injury because muscles, ligaments, and tendons can become shortened, weak, and inflexible. Targeted therapeutic exercises can help:
- Prevent and reverse these changes
- Restore strength, flexibility, endurance, and coordination
- Prevent reinjury
At Cascade Spine & Injury Center, we tailor our exercise plan for each patient and their needs. We also make changes as the patient progresses through care.
Our plan for SI joint pain will depend on the specific injury. We may focus on strengthening the muscles around the joint or helping to stretch it out.
What Can Happen if Treatment Is Delayed?
Sometimes people aren’t sure how long to wait before seeing a chiropractor after a car accident.
An SI joint injury is less likely to lead to chronic issues if left untreated than other parts of the body. That’s because it’s typically an uncomplicated issue.
However, your problem with untreated SI joint pain may relate less to mechanical issues and more to how the nervous system responds to the pain. When the nervous system gets used to pain in a certain area of the body, more often than not it actually becomes hypersensitive to the pain rather than tuning it out.
After that, even if the underlying issue is fixed, the everyday sensations of using the joint could become painful. That’s why dealing with pain right away is always the best choice.
Cascade Spine & Injury Center: Helping Find Relief From SI Joint Pain After Car Accidents
Cascade Spine & Injury Center doesn’t want you to needlessly suffer from SI joint pain after a car accident. We have over a decade of experience successfully treating work, sports, and auto accident-related injuries.
If you’ve been in a car accident that you believe has caused an SI joint injury, don’t wait to see what happens. Make an appointment with us so we can thoroughly examine you and diagnose your issue.
Whether that turns out to be a problem with your SI joint, a spinal injury, or something else, we will create a comprehensive treatment plan just for you. This may include chiropractic adjustments and modalities, massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise rehab.
Call today or schedule an appointment online and start your recovery as soon as possible.
The content in this blog should not be used in place of direct medical advice/treatment and is solely for informational purposes.