Many studies have been done that show how good acupuncture is for low back pain. But there are many different reasons for low back pain, and often people don’t know the SI joint can be the cause of their problems.
If only the back is treated, and pain doesn’t subside, perhaps the sacro-iliac joint needs to be addressed. Fortunately there is physical exam that can tell us if it’s a problem, and I always like to check it when a patient presents with low back pain. When the root of a problem is the SI joint, the ligaments in this joint are loose, and instability causes pain.
Acupuncture tightens these ligaments using a method called “prolo-acupuncture“. Many of my patients once again do the activities they love after 6-8 treatments, pain-free. Sometimes even, as in the case I write about below.
Is the SI Joint Causing Low Back Pain?
First, what is an SI joint? It is your sacroiliac joint. It’s visualized by those two little dimples on your low back, just above the buttock. That joint is between the sacrum and ilium, and is held together with very strong ligaments. These act as support right in the center of your body.
It’s not always easy to determine if your sacroiliac joint is the problem, and sometimes it goes undiagnosed.
Possible causes of SI Joint injury:
- Sudden fall
- Athletics and overuse
- Altered gait (walking weird, from a foot problem or knee injury, for instance)
- Weakened abdominal muscles
Symptoms of SI joint instability:
- Low back pain
- Pain that radiates into buttock, legs, groin
- Painful to lie on your side for extended periods of time
- Hurts to cross your legs
- Worse with standing and walking, better lying down
Case Study: An Athlete’s SI Joint Tightened with Acupuncture, Low Back Pain Resolved
I’m going to tell you about Susie. Susie is a competitive rower, with 30 years of experience. Over the past 7 years, her back seized up about 5 times, and more than once it rendered her immobile. At her worst point, she was stuck in her boat and her teammates had to lift her out.
When she came to see me she wanted to train for a race, but her low back pain was starting to ramp up. Five months previous was the last time her back seized, and she was afraid it would happen again with intense activity. I did some physical exam, and it showed her SI joint didn’t move properly, her ligaments were loose. Proper pelvic rotation didn’t occur during leg movement.
How I Treat SI Joint Pain
First, I did some gentle body work to restore the mobility in her SI joint. Then came the crucial treatment. Using long needles, I accessed the deep sacral and pelvic ligaments that make up the joint. After this prolo-acupuncture, ligaments tightened up immediately, like a sea anemone, when scratched with the needle.
I placed 4 needles on different ligaments, and hooked them up to electro-stimulation. After her first treatment, Susie reported she had some soreness directly after the treatment, but was able to row with less pain and no fear of her back “going out”. After three treatments, she was able to successfully compete in her race, pain-free, without incident.
I have found that physical therapy is key to stop recurrence of SI joint pain. I work with an amazing therapist, Liz Williams, who will give the necessary strengthening for the core abdominal muscles, pelvic floor, gluteal muscles and hips to decrease the likelihood of re-injury.