Diagnosing SI joint dysfunction requires specific methods to accurately identify the source of the patient’s discomfort. The symptoms of SI joint dysfunction can often times be misinterpreted as lumbar generated pain. This is primarily due to the fact that patients with SI joint dysfunction complain of symptoms that are also common with other conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as a lumbar herniated disc, musculoskeletal disorders, and diseases of the hip joint.
When speaking to your doctor, try to be as specific to your symptoms as possible, especially the following:
- Location of pain (low back, buttocks, hip, groin, legs)
- Severity of pain
- Experience of any muscle spasms
- Level of functionality
- Change in motion resulting in pain (sitting, standing, bending at the waist, walking)
- Direct trauma, past or present that may be a result of the pain, such as a motor vehicle accident.
- Minor injury, such as a fall or misstep, that has led to an increase in pain
A series of tests may also help determine if the pain is related to SI joint dysfunction. A typical SI joint exam may consist of the following:
- Review of history
- Information provided by you and previous medical treatment records provided to the doctor.
- Physical Examination
- Simple maneuvers to localize the pain.
- Review of previous diagnostic imaging
- May include x-ray, MRI and/or CT.
- Injection to the SI joint
- Injection of pain medication directly to the SI joint, which must be done using fluoroscopy to confirm position.
Of all of the above, the SI joint injection has been shown to be the most accurate method to determine if the pain is coming from your SI joint. If your pain is significantly reduced by the injection it can be determined that the source of your pain is from your SI joint. If there is not a significant change in your pain level, the doctor will most likely rule SI joint dysfunction out of your diagnosis.1