What are the biomechanics of sacroiliac joint (SIJ) injuries?

Updated: Jan 16, 2019
  • Author: Andrew L Sherman, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD  more...
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The function of the SIJ is to dissipate loads of the torso through the pelvis to the lower extremities and vice versa. The pelvis acts as a central base through which large forces are accepted and dissipated. Although the main role of the joint is to provide stability, the SIJ has limited motion that allows it to dissipate and transfer significant loads and stresses. Studies by Weisel indicate that most movement occurs when rising from the sitting to the standing position. However, the amount of motion is small, making assessment of sacroiliac motion during physical examination quite difficult. Selvik suggested that hyperextension produces the greatest degree of motion (2° on average, with only minimal translation of 0.5-1.6 mm).

If the motion in the pelvis is asymmetric, then dysfunction can occur. Some conditions that cause asymmetric motion include leg-length inequalities, a unilaterally weak lower limb (eg, polio), tight myofascial structures (eg, iliopsoas), and scoliosis. Hip osteoarthritis can lead to leg-length shortening and SIJ pain.

Women may be at increased risk for SIJ problems because their broader pelvises, greater femoral neck anteversion, and shorter limb lengths lead to different, possibly predisposing, biomechanics. In addition, pregnancy often leads to stretching of the pelvis, specifically targeting the sacroiliac ligaments and possibly leading to dysfunction, hypermobility syndromes, and chronic pain.

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