Question: I have been doing research on the Internet, and I am confused. What is the difference between sacroiliitis and sacroiliac joint dysfunction?

I have been doing research on the Internet and I am confused. What, if any, is the difference between sacroiliitis and sacroiliac joint dysfunction? My doctor said I probably have sacroiliitis and they are going to do an injection to make sure. But I think now I might have sacroiliac joint dysfunction because I really only have lower left back pain and left hip pain, and I don’t have any of those diseases associated with sacroiliitis. How do I know the difference? Does it matter? Should I talk to my doctor about this? Thank you for helping me understand the difference.

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Doctor’s Response: Sacroiliitis simply means inflammation of the sacroiliac joint.

Your question is a good one; and, there is a big difference between sacroiliitis and sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Sacroiliitis simply means inflammation of the sacroiliac joint. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is what occurs as a result of inflammation and degeneration of the sacroiliac joint. From a purist point of view, sacroiliitis is an inflammatory arthritis of the sacroiliac joint that is frequently associated with other systemic arthritic conditions. These would include psoriatic arthritis, Reiter’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, as well as a host of others. Basically, the first line of treatment in these conditions is to treat the underlying condition. If the sacroiliac joints do not respond to that treatment, then they would fall under the broad heading of painful sacroiliac joint dysfunction, which is then treated, in my opinion, like every other case of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. If sacroiliitis is definitely the diagnosis, then a rheumatologist should be involved to help sort this out and treat the underlying condition, prior to any fusion surgery being done.

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In Spine-health’s Doctor Advice section, physicians respond to frequently asked questions about back pain issues. These responses represent the opinion of one physician, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the broader medical community. The advice presented has not been peer reviewed by Spine-health’s medical advisory board.