Spine's Facet and Sacroiliac Joints

Written by Jason M. Highsmith, MD

Like other joints in the body, facet joints are subject to repetitive stress injuries and degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis. Also, the joint capsule can rupture and form cysts that pinch nerves, but most of the time, they just flare up.

Sacroiliac (SI) Joints
The sacroiliac (SI) joints link your sacrum to your pelvis, specifically to your iliac bones. You can easily feel your iliac bones; they're the bones at the top of your hips. Strong ligaments stabilize and attach your sacrum to your hip bones. Some motion is possible through these joints, but it's very limited. Pregnancy, for example, can loosen these joints, and if they don't return to normal, they can cause instability issues later in life.

The SI joint can be an overlooked source of back pain; it's subject to the same things that can happen to other joints, such as osteoarthritis. Also keep in mind the weight this lowest part of your spine bears. Excessive body weight and lifting injuries can negatively affect these joints. Because lots of muscles attach to the sacrum, muscular weakness or imbalances can misalign joints and be possible sources of pain.

Jason Highsmith, MD is a practicing neurosurgeon in Charleston, NC and the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Back Pain. Click here for more information about the book.

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