If you get up from a sitting position and have lower back pain, it may be due to inflammation of your sacroiliac (SI) joint. Part of the hip joint, the SI joint connects a triangular bone at the base of your spine with your pelvis. If you are looking to ease discomfort linked to your SI joint without depending on strong pain medications that could contribute to other issues, the Los Angeles spine surgery experts at The Spine Institute want to share a few ways you may be able to experience relief.
1. Apply Heat and Ice
Ice should be applied first since it’s what decreases inflammation. Heat may ease your pain by increasing circulation, which promotes tissue healing. With heat and ice therapy, remember to:
- Limit applications to 15-20 minute intervals
- Never apply heat or ice directly to your lower back/hip area
- Alternate heat and ice applications to increase effectiveness
2. Take Pain Meds That Aren’t Habit-Forming
There are times when SI joint inflammation affects the nearby sciatic nerve, which may lead to radiating nerve pain in the lower back, hips, and legs. If heat and ice aren’t working, you may benefit from anti-inflammatory medications or acetaminophen. A class of NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors may be gentler on your stomach. Your doctor can help you make a choice that’s right for you.
3. Stay Away from Foods That Contribute to Inflammation
What do sugary snacks, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, and processed meat have in common? They’re all foods you’ll want to avoid or eat less of if you want to ease SI joint inflammation. Instead, opt for a diet full of foods that naturally minimize inflammation, such as:
- Fatty fish (mackerel, halibut, albacore tuna, salmon)
- Olive oil
- Nuts like walnuts and almonds (but not salted ones)
- Berries (particularly blueberries)
4. Try Acupuncture
Predating recorded history, acupuncture works by stimulating certain pressure points within the body with the insertion of fine, sterile needles. Treatments can take anywhere from 5-30 minutes, depending on the specific nature of your lower back or related nerve pain. It’s believed that acupuncture provides relief for some patients by facilitating the tissue healing process.
5. Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Any type of pain is subjective, but it doesn’t mean SI joint pain is in your head. Cognitive behavioral therapy may change the way you think about your discomfort. Related techniques include:
- Mindful meditation
- Deep breathing
- Pet therapy
6. Get Steroid Injections
SI joint injections combine a local anesthetic with a steroid medication to provide immediate relief to the affected area. This treatment can usually be safely repeated every 3-4 months if it’s effective for you. The relief you experience may make it easier to participate in physical therapy sessions without distracting discomfort. If you’re able to strengthen muscles around your lower back, you may reach a point where no treatment is needed at all.
7. Engage in Low-Impact Exercise
Low-impact activities and gentle stretches naturally stimulate the release of endorphins, which are “feel-good” hormones that may ease your pain. Exercise also increases circulation and strengthens muscles around the SI joint to reduce the risk of muscle strain and stress from overuse injuries. Low-impact exercise that may alleviate SI joint inflammation includes:
- Knee-to-chest stretches
- Knee rotations
- Bridge exercises to strengthen lower back and buttocks muscles
- Certain yoga poses (e.g. child’s pose, bird dog pose, triangle pose)
Chronic pain in the lower back is not always correctable without minimally invasive surgery. At The Spine Institute, we specialize in a wide array of procedures, from decompression to spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles residents should call 310-828-7757 right away if they’d like to schedule an in-person evaluation.