Is My Postpartum Pelvic Girdle Pain (PPGP) Caused by the SI Joint?

If you have been pregnant or given birth, your risk for SI joint pain goes up. The only way to be sure that your postpartum girdle pain is caused by the SI joint, however, is to get an accurate diagnosis using tests specific for determining SI joint pain.

Diagnosis of PPGP and SI Joint Pain

Diagnosis of PPGP and SI joint pain is usually made with history and physical examination. Physical examination typically includes a series of provocative tests (physical maneuvers performed by the examiner that stress the SI joints in different directions).

Diagnosis is confirmed with a diagnostic SI joint injection. During the injection procedure, a small amount of numbing medicine (a local anesthetic such as lidocaine) is injected into the SI joint under fluoroscopic guidance. If the injection results in a significant decrease in SI joint pain (more than 50% pain relief) for an hour or two after the injection, then this is considered a positive or confirmatory diagnostic injection.

Non-Surgical Treatment of PPGP

Some research exists on the non-surgical treatment of PPGP including physical therapy and other conservative measures such as therapeutic corticosteroid injections and radiofrequency ablation (RFA).

Postpartum Physical Therapy for SI Joint Pain

Physical therapy is performed to increase the functional stability of the pelvic (SI) joints. Physical therapy treatment of sacroiliac joint pain should ideally address the underlying muscle and ligament problems. Treatments with a physical therapist will typically focus on restoring normal pelvis and core muscle stability (Transversus Abdominis, Multifidus and Pelvic Floor muscles) as these muscles are responsible for what is known as Force Closure of the pelvis,30,31,32 which creates a dynamic active compressive force and stabilization of the SI joints.

Physical therapy is a therapeutic option that may provide relief for some women, but has also been shown to exacerbate symptoms in others.

Exercise for PPGP and SI Joint Pain

This treatment along with exercises to improve general spinal stability, improve body mechanics, correct postural problems, strengthen and/or stretch specific muscles to balance the muscle groups that surround, attach to, and support the SI joints, combined with general physical conditioning are considered “best practice.”

Little formal research is available to support these recommendations, because the treatments are highly individualized to the specific patient. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions across a broad range of patients.

SI Belting for SI Joint Pain Relief

An SI belt, a non-elastic strap placed temporarily around the pelvic joints, has also been found to reduce the sensation of abnormal movement and may aid with symptom reduction.60

Other Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Other non-surgical treatment options include injection of medications (steroids) into the joint to decrease inflammation and pain, and radiofrequency ablation (RFA). RFA is a procedure where heat or cold is used to temporarily deaden the sensory nerves over the SI joints in order to decrease their ability to transmit pain signals coming from the SI joint.

Minimally Invasive SI Joint Fusion for PPGP

If a PPGP patient continues to have disabling SI joint pain after 6 months or more of appropriate non-surgical treatment, then she may benefit from an iFuse minimally invasive surgical (MIS) procedure to fuse the SI joint.

The iFuse procedure, available since 2009, has been shown to provide improvement in pain, disability and quality of life in high-quality studies including two randomized controlled trials (RCTs).18,19 Patients with SI joint pain that began in the peri-partum period that received the iFuse procedure showed significant long-term reduction in pain and marked improvement in physical function and in quality of life.53

The sacroiliac joint is a source of pain in approximately 75% of women with persistent PPGP.53 For carefully selected women with chronic postpartum related SI joint dysfunction that hasn’t responded to conservative treatment, MIS SI joint fusion performed with the iFuse Implant System may be a valuable treatment option. Results may vary. Ask your doctor whether iFuse is right for you.

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