Sacroiliac joint steroid injections help doctors diagnose and relieve lower back pain caused by problems within the sacroiliac joint. This joint connects the base of the spine, called the sacrum, to the hip. If there is inflammation in one or both of the sacroiliac joints, also known as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, a patient may experience pain in the buttocks and lower back that worsens when running or standing for extended periods of time. This may be caused by trauma, injury, infection, pregnancy or other underlying conditions.
A sacroiliac joint steroid injection can be used to confirm a diagnosis of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. If the injection provides relief from painful symptoms, it will establish that this joint is the source of the pain. The sacroiliac joint steroid injection can also be used to treat this condition. The procedure involves carefully injecting steroids, along with a local anesthetic and saline solution, into the sacroiliac joint to reduce swelling and pain. This will often provide the patient with relief from symptoms for several months. As with other spinal blocks, if a sacroiliac joint injection successfully improves discomfort, it may be given up to three times per year.
It is important for patients to realize that spinal injections cannot cure their condition, but rather provide temporary relief from pain, inflammation and other symptoms. These treatments can be repeated if desired in order to prolong the results.
The Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection Procedure
The patient is positioned lying face down on the procedure table. The skin in the area of the lower back that will receive the injection is prepared with an antiseptic solution. A local anesthetic is provided to reduce any discomfort from the actual injection. This procedure is performed under imaging guidance using an X-ray device along with a contrast dye to ensure precise delivery of the injection into the joint. Once the X-ray and dye have confirmed the targeted location, the sacroiliac joint injection is then delivered directly into the affected joint along with saline solution and another anesthetic medication. The anesthesia provides immediate pain relief, while the actual relief from the steroids may take between 24 to 48 hours to begin. The only discomfort a patient typically experiences during this procedure is a slight stinging initially.
By injecting medication directly into the sacroiliac joint, patients can benefit from almost immediate pain relief, as the medication does not have to travel through the body first. Once the injection is completed, the treatment site will be covered with a small bandage. The entire procedure is typically completed in less than 30 minutes.
Recovery from a Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection
Following the injection, the patient is generally comfortable due to the effects of the anesthetic. As the anesthetic begins to wear off several hours later, some patients experience back pain until the steroid takes effect. In some cases, a patient’s legs are affected by the anesthetic, causing numbness or weakness that may make walking difficult. This should subside within a few hours as the anesthetic dissipates. Tenderness and swelling may also occur at the injection site, but this is usually mild. The application of an ice pack to the area can often relieve this discomfort.
Patients are restricted from driving and any activities that require exertion on the day of the procedure. Normal daily activities may be resumed the following day. However, patients should exercise in moderation initially, slowly increasing its duration and intensity over the course of one to two weeks.
Risks of a Sacroiliac Joint Steroid Injection
While sacroiliac joint steroid injections are considered safe for most patients, there are certain risks associated with this treatment. Complications are rare and can be further reduced by choosing an experienced doctor to perform your procedure. Some of these risks may include:
- Allergic reaction to the medication administered
In addition, patients with diabetes may have a temporary spike in their blood sugar levels after a sacroiliac joint steroid injection. If you have diabetes, make sure you inform your physician prior to undergoing this procedure.