Are you suffering from sacroiliac (SI) joint pain? Have you tried different therapies and exercises to manage your condition, yet the pain persists? If you’ve been diagnosed with SI joint dysfunction, ask your doctor or physical therapist about the benefits of wearing a trochanteric belt. A trochanteric belt is a supportive brace that can help alleviate pain, reduce inflammation and restore function. This simple, yet effective device is designed to stabilize the pelvis and prevent excessive movement of the SI joint. The terms trochanteric belt, trochanter belt, and sacroiliac belt all mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably.
The SI joints—located on either side of the base of the spine—connect the spine to the pelvis. Were it not for these joints, or SI joint as they are commonly called, you wouldn’t be able to stand or walk. The job of the SI joint is to stabilize the pelvis, as well as serve as a shock absorber between the weight-bearing forces of motion of the lower body and the spine.
The SI joint has to move in order for the pelvis to tilt and rotate, but its range of motion is meant to be very limited. Strong ligaments help keep the joint in proper alignment and prevent excessive movement when walking, running, or simply standing. Although these ligaments keep motion in check, they stretch just enough so that the joint can carry out its complex combinations of rotating, sliding or tilting during weight-bearing activities. When the ligaments fail to provide adequate support, destabilization of the SI joint and pelvis can occur. Conditions that can place undue stress on the Si joint and contribute to destabilization include:
Most people suffering from SI joint dysfunction find it difficult to remain in one position for any length of time. Pain is generally felt at the base of the spine and is often described as “gripping” or “stabbing.” Difficulty walking or climbing stairs, and pain while lying on one side (especially at night) are common symptoms.
What does a trochanteric belt do?
A trochanteric belt is designed to limit movement of the SI joint in order to reduce painful symptoms. Approximately four to eight inches wide, the belt is generally made of elastic or similar stretchy material, and worn snugly strapped around the hips. When used consistently, it adds support, reduces the amount of stress on the SI joint and promotes proper alignment of the pelvis. Simply put, a trochanteric belt is an external device that does the job of the ligaments.
Trochanteric belts come equipped with an adjustable buckle or Velcro® fasteners, which make compression adjustment and universal sizing easy. Unlike a corset, trochanteric belts are lightweight and comfortable. Once prescribed, your measurements are taken and your healthcare practitioner will generally give you instructions about how to use the belt properly. Although individual need varies, practitioners typically recommend a 10-day regimen of wearing the belt day and night, followed by six to eight weeks of wearing the belt during weight-bearing hours only. Vigorous exercise is discouraged during this time.
A safe treatment option
There’s hardly any downside to wearing a trochanteric belt. Because the belt supports just the ligaments—there is no risk of increasing muscle weakness in the lower back. Wearing a supportive device such as a trochanteric belt reduces stress on the SI joint, giving the ligaments time to heal.
Not every type of SI joint dysfunction can be successfully treated with a trochanteric belt. For arthritis sufferers, medication or injections to reduce inflammation might be a more appropriate first line treatment. Individuals with leg inequality might find that an orthotic device, such as a heel lift, is better for alleviating pain and reducing joint stress. If you are concerned about SI dysfunction, ask your physician if a trochanteric belt is right for you.
Dr. Santhosh Thomas and/or the Cleveland Clinic do not endorse any particular kind of brace, and have not been compensated for statements made in this article.