Sciatica Vs. SI Joint Pain

We are often asked “Is this sciatic pain or sacro-illiac (SI) joint pain?”  Both originate from the low back/hip region, give us low back pain, and create pain down the legs.  It is a valid question.
Sciatic pain is pain referred from the low back, down the legs, possibly all the way to the foot.  It is due to sciatic nerve impingement (pinching) from the bones and tissues of the low back.  The most common symptoms other than back pain are pain down one or both legs that can go below the knee and even to the foot.  Another clue that the pain is sciatic is a weakness in a leg or hip muscles.  And the most telling is numbness or tingling of the leg or foot.
SI joint pain on the other hand starts at the low back and then spreads down the hip and into the leg.  This pain rarely goes below the knee and rarely creates numbness and tingling.  While pain may keep a person from moving a certain way, it usually does not create muscle weakness.
It is worth noting that each of these problems can present differently in each individual person, but as a rule of thumb, these symptoms differentiate the two conditions.  The good news is that we have many different ways to identify your specific problem, like orthopedic muscle tests and X-rays.  Once the problem has been identified we are then able to help you with either sciatic pain or SI joint pain.  Please give us a call so we can see how we can help.


Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

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