You probably know the feeling all too well— lower back pain. Maybe you’ve just started to experience it or you’ve had problems for a long time. Either way, acute or chronic lower back pain can leave you feeling miserable, struggling day to day just to get through it.
While not always the case, oftentimes lower back pain is caused by swelling and inflammation in the sacroiliac joint, which may be diagnosed as sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
If you’re experiencing lower back pain, we encourage you to make an appointment at one of our pain management and treatment centers. Our doctors and team of medical professionals are here to help alleviate your pain and put you back on the path to a quick recovery without surgery or habit-forming pain medications.
Here are just a few of the treatment methods we use at Prospira Pain Care in order to reduce swelling and inflammation in your SI joint and to help you live a life with less pain. If you’re tired of living in pain, and want to try a different approach to managing your pain, we’re here to serve you.
1 Use ice and heat therapy to relieve pain
You’ve likely heard that baseball pitchers ice their arm after a hard day on the mound, but have you ever thought about why ice is used?
Applying ice or a cold pack to an inflamed area is one of the easiest ways to reduce swelling. It’s been a viable treatment method for years, and works very well for many patients.
It’s important to note, when using ice you should not apply it directly to your skin, as this can result in ice burn. Ideally, you should wrap ice in a towel and apply it to your lower back region.
Heat therapy is designed to increase blood flow to a particular region; in this case the SI joint. When muscles become tense, circulation is often restricted. Heat restores blood flow, which can help reduce the pain signals that are being sent to the brain.
Heat therapy also has a calming, relaxing effect on the body, just like cuddling up next to a fire or drinking a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
2 Non-habit forming pain medications
We’ve documented in another article how pain medications may actually make you worse, which you can read here.
It’s obvious that no one wants to get addicted to pain medications, but it happens to people from all walks of like every day around the world.
Here are just a few shocking statistics about pain medications:
- 52 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime.
- 6.1 million people have used them non-medically in the past month. The United States makes up about 5 percent of the world’s population and consumes 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs.
- In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult every 4 hours, for 1 month.
Those are chilling statistics, and things are only getting worse. While we certainly understand that certain situations require powerful pain medications, our pain management algorithm focuses on limited use of addictive narcotics.
We do not want patients to become dependent on pain medications in order to have a functional, fulfilling life.
In fact, when we discuss using medications as part of a patient’s treatment protocol, we typically start with NSAIDS or acetaminophen, both of which are regularly available, in-expensive, over-the-counter options.
Both of these over-the-counter medications are viable treatment options for reducing inflammation and swelling of the SI joint.
As with any drug you are taking, it is important to discuss specific dosage with your physician. Our doctors at Prospira Pain Care can work with you to provide a treatment plan using non habit-forming medications to meet your needs.
3 Reduce or eliminate foods that lead to inflammation
Wait a minute doc…How in the world will changing my diet help alleviate back pain?
This a question we hear all the time. Patients understand that, to prevent heart disease or diabetes, they need to change their diets, but oftentimes people don’t associate a poor diet with back pain (specifically inflammation in the SI joint).
It really boils down to choosing foods in your diet that are known to decrease levels of inflammation in the body. By decreasing inflammation throughout your body, you’re, by default, going to decrease inflammation in your SI joint, or at least prevent any excess inflammation.
Here are a few foods you may want to include in your diet if you are experiencing pain in your sacroiliac joint:
Olive oil. Olive oil contains omega-9 fatty acids, which helps to reduce inflammation. Consider replacing vegetable oil with olive oil when cooking for an extra dose of inflammation-fighting superfood.
More fish, less red meat. Red meat is higher in cholesterol and salt, both of which are inflammation triggers. On the other hand, fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps to combat inflammation in the body. It also typically contains less calories. So next time you cook or go out to eat, opt for the salmon over the steak!
More nuts in your diet. Walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, and more are excellent sources of omega-3s (noticing a theme here?). They are comprised of healthy fats, which are an excellent addition to your diet.
When you visit Prospira Pain Care, our nutrition counselors will talk with you about how you can change your diet to reduce swelling and to help combat your SI joint inflammation.
Acupuncture is a minimally-invasive treatment technique designed to decrease pain by promoting the body’s innate ability to heal itself.
While modern medicine has, to an extent, minimized the perception of self healing, our bodies are actually quite remarkable at overcoming obstacles and healing.
Acupuncture promotes this process by stimulating specific acupoints on the body, as identified by a licensed, certified acupuncturist.
Acupuncture treatment begins by laying comfortably on the treatment table while acupoint areas are identified and needles are placed. Typically, patients report little to no pain while the small needles are being placed, and report a feeling of relaxation during and after the procedure.
Typical treatments typically take anywhere from 5-30 minutes, and multiple treatments are usually needed for both acute and chronic SI joint pain.
Whether you are experiencing pain in your lower back or other areas of your body, acupuncture is a minimally-invasive treatment alternative that you may want to try. Our doctors at Prospira Pain Care would love to educate you in more detail on the benefits of acupuncture, and how it may fit into your overall pain management and treatment protocol.
5 Cognitive behavioral therapy, including relaxation techniques
When you’re experiencing significant levels of pain, the last thing you want anyone to tell you is that it’s “just in your head.” Regardless of the reason for your pain, we know that it is very real to you.
For those who are suffering with SI joint pain, cognitive behavioral therapy may be an excellent treatment option. After all, relaxation does a body good. It helps to calm our minds and decrease physical, mental, and emotional stress triggers.
In a nutshell, cognitive behavioral therapy states that physical pain can be successfully managed by controlling the negative thoughts and behaviors that influence the perception of pain.
By talking with a cognitive behavioral therapist and developing coping mechanisms to better understand and manage pain, a higher quality of life can be achieved. At Prospira Pain Care, our therapists can help you better understand why you are in pain, and equip you with the skills you need to cope with pain in a positive manner.
6 SI joint steroid injections
SI joint corticosteroid injections are one of the most popular minimally invasive techniques used to directly decrease inflammation and swelling of the sacroiliac joint.
During this procedure, an anti-inflammatory is injected directly into the joint, which provides pain relief for many patients. If the treatment is successful, it can be repeated eve-ry 3-4 months to help patients manage their pain effectively.
In some cases, an initial SI joint injection followed by a physical therapy regimen is effective at managing pain, and may lessen the need for future injections.
At Prospira Pain Care, we provide these injections to many of our patients as part of our pain treatment algorithm, where we focus on taking patients from a feeling of hopeless-ness to a feeling of hopefulness using minimally-invasive, non-surgical treatment protocols.
7 Stretching with low-impact exercise
When we first see patients, they often think that lying in bed or resting on the couch is the only way to reduce inflammation in the SI joint area.
While rest is certainly an important component of any rehab process, it’s also important that proper stretching and exercise takes place.
With regards to the SI joint, it’s important to stretch the muscles surrounding the joint in order to prevent muscle strain or overuse, which can contribute to increased levels of inflammation in the joint.
At Prospira Pain Care, physical therapy may be a part of your SI joint pain management program. If so, our physical therapists will instruct you on the best exercises and stretching protocols in order to reduce inflammation and get your SI joint back on the road to a successful recovery.
8 TENS therapy and/or spinal cord stimulation
While electrical stimulation may conjure up images of shock therapy on lab rats, nothing could be further from the truth.
Both TENS therapy and spinal cord stimulation have been proven effective to treat pain in the lower back region surrounding the SI joint.
Here’s how these therapies work:
TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This type of therapy pro-vides a low-voltage current that can help patients experience less pain.
A TENS unit is about the size of a cell phone or pocket radio, and works by hooking up electrodes to the skin in the area where pain is present. This electrical stimulation therapy sends signals to the brain that block pain signals.
A TENS unit has a variety of settings, and our doctors will work with you to determine the ideal settings for your TENS unit so that you get maximum pain relief. The best part is that once you understand how to operate your TENS unit, it’s quite easy and can be used anywhere.
Spinal cord stimulation:
Spinal cord stimulation is similar to TENS therapy in that an electrical signal is used to block or “confuse” pain signals. One of the primary differences between the two is that spinal cord stimulation involves actually implanting a small battery powered device into the body, which emits signals to your spinal column.
Patients usually report a tingling sensation instead of pain, and many patients have re-ported a reduction in SI joint pain due to spinal cord stimulation therapy.
The key takeaway is this: electrical stimulation therapy via a TENS unit or spinal stimulation device can be effective in helping to eliminate pain in the SI joint.
9 Tricyclic anti-depressants (TCAs)
Treating lower back pain with anti-depressants may seem unusual at first, but as you know, SI joint pain can also bring on a variety of emotional issues that must be evaluated and taken seriously.
At Prospira Pain Care, we are focused not just on pain management, but the overall well-being of our patients.
In the case of anti-depressants (specifically TCAs), when certain chemicals are imbalanced in the brain, it can lead to increased levels of pain perception, and the pain is very real.
TCAs increase the levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine to calm your body, which for many patients results in a more relaxed feeling, reducing pain and muscle tension in the process.
Using TCAs for treating pain is considered an off-label use, but many patients experience great results. Typically, a lower dosage is required when utilizing TCAs to treat back pain as opposed to depression.
10 Incorporate a daily multivitamin into your routine
Certain vitamins help our bodies in the battle against inflammation, and taking a multi-vitamin with the right inflammation-fighting ingredients is an effective way to reduce or even eliminate inflammation in the body, including the SI joint.
If you’re taking a multivitamin with the goal of reducing joint inflammation and swelling, here are the top vitamins you’ll want to make sure are included in your daily supplement:
Vitamin A is an antioxidant commonly found in whole milk, amongst other common foods. Beta-carotene, which is found in many vegetables, is also converted into Vitamin A in the body.
Because the body is constantly ridding itself of Vitamin B6, your body needs to replenish this vitamin daily. Vitamin B6 is plentiful in foods such as fish, turkey, and beef, and has even been shown to increase inflammation leading to joint damage (source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12681455).
Vitamin C is found in abundance in citrus fruits, and may help to reduce inflammation in the body. This powerful vitamin is an antioxidant that may lower levels of c-reactive protein, which is an inflammatory marker in the body.
Vitamin D is abundant in milk, fish, eggs and more. The body also absorbs vitamin D when exposed to sunlight (so working on your tan in moderation is good for you!).
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of inflammatory diseases. So while it isn’t conclusive that vitamin D will help you reduce inflammation, it can’t hurt to get a little more vitamin D in your diet.
While vitamin K (found in many green vegetables) is famous for helping blood clots, some evidence has suggested that it may reduce inflammation in the body.
While more research is needed on the effect that vitamin K has on the body with regards to inflammation, eating more greens is always a good idea to help you stay healthier.
If you’re looking for a good multivitamin, our doctors at Prospira Pain Care can advise you during your appointment because not all multivitamins are created equal.
11 Take a break from activities that increase inflammation
While it’s important to stay active, sometimes it may be beneficial to take a break from activities that seem to cause inflammation and swelling in and around your SI joint.
Common activities that contribute to SI joint inflammation may include:
- Softball or Baseball
- Martial Arts
And more. Basically, any sport or physical activity that puts stress or tension on the lower back region could aggravate your SI joint, leading to inflammation.
We certainly don’t want you to give up your favorite hobbies forever, but a temporary break, complemented by a professional pain management plan from Prospira Pain Care, can help you get back on the playing field, course, court, or arena faster.
12 Platelet rich plasma (PRP)
Does it seem like you’ve tried everything to alleviate the pain and inflammation in your SI joint, but nothing seems to work?
At Prospira Pain Care, we have patients walk into our offices around the country each and every day and tell us, “I’ve tried everything…can you help me?”
We certainly sympathize with these patients, and in many cases ask them a simple question: have you ever tried platelet rich plasma (PRP)?
When other therapies have been tried and haven’t worked, this treatment is often called upon to reduce SI joint pain.
In layman’s terms, here is how the treatment works:
Platelet rich plasma (those containing a higher concentration of platelets that assist with natural healing) are injected into a patient’s SI joint area.
Because the plasma has a higher concentration of platelets, the body receives necessary proteins, cytokines, and other growth factors. The healing process begins with the addition of growth factors and other critical stem cells that permit full healing. PRP strengthens and intensifies this natural healing process.
The result for many patients is simple— less pain and a better quality of life from a simple injection. If you’re interested in trying PRP, we encourage you to contact Prospira Pain Care at our location nearest you.
13 Focus on reducing inflammation in your entire body
While the main point of this article is to reduce pain and swelling of the SI joint, working to reduce inflammation in your entire body can have a positive effect on your lower back pain. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.
So, what can you do in order to reduce inflammation in the body?
For starters, you can change your diet. We covered the diet in detail earlier, and if you want to reduce inflammation in your entire body, consuming a diet consisting of anti-inflammatory foods is a good way to start.
Secondly, stretching and lower impact exercises, as we discussed earlier, can also de-crease inflammation. Often, muscles in the lower back surrounding the SI joint become inflamed due to lack of elasticity. Stretching can help guard against losing elasticity in the lower back region.
Last but not least, monitoring your vitamin intake to ensure you are getting enough Vitamins A, B6, C, D, and K can help lower inflammation levels throughout the entire body. During your appointment, we can talk about adding a high-quality multivitamin to your daily regimen.
14 Build strength in your lower back with physical therapy
Physical therapy is a common treatment protocol for SI joint pain at Prospira Pain Care. For patients who are suffering with SI joint inflammation, there are a few specific therapies and exercises commonly used to increase strength and flexibility, as well as improve body mechanics to decrease the risk of future SI joint pain.
Here are a few specific physical therapy treatments that are common when dealing with SI joint pain:
Stretching the muscles around the SI joint consistently can help loosen tight muscles, as well as improve range of motion. For many patients, this leads to less stress when per-forming everyday tasks.
By strengthening the SI joint and surrounding areas, you’ll be able to reduce the chances for a strain in the area. Muscles that are specifically targeted for strengthening exercises are the lower back, pelvic floor, abs, and buttocks.
Many patients put unnecessary strain on their SI joint based on their normal movements. A physical therapist will be able to analyze how you move your body, and train you to make the necessary changes to decrease the stress and tension placed on your SI joint.
15 Topical analgesics (creams, gels, and rubs)
Sometimes putting a cream, gel, or other type of topical analgesic on your lower back can help relieve your SI joint pain. While this treatment is typically used in less severe cases, it’s effective in many patients.
Even though they are all designed to alleviate pain, different ingredients are often used, including:
-Menthol, camphor, and methyl salicylate—these ingredients produce a burning or cooling sensation to give your brain something else to think about besides pain).
-Salicylates are found in some creams, and work best when applied to joints closer to the skin. However, they still may provide relief around the SI joint for some patients.
-Capsaicin is the main ingredient in chili peppers, and as you would suspect, it provides a tingling or burning sensation. It’s one of the most effective ingredients used in topical pain relief products.
Topical creams may work for you and they may not. Even if they provide temporary pain relief, there is likely an underlying issue in or around your SI joint that needs to be addressed.
16 Wearing an SI joint belt
Have you ever seen someone wearing a 6-8 inch-wide belt around their pelvis? If so, it was most likely a sacroiliac belt.
While these belts are not specifically designed to reduce inflammation in the SI joint, they are designed to stabilize the area, providing pain relief for many patients.
At Prospira Pain Care, your pain management doctor may recommend that you try a sacroiliac belt to help reduce your lower back pain.
If you are going to use one of these specialty belts to stabilize your SI joint, it is important that you choose the correct size, and wear it correctly. Our doctors will train you on how to wear the belt, take it on and off correctly, and make any necessary adjustments.
You don’t have to live in a world dominated by lower back pain. We can help you.
You’ve likely heard all of your life that, as you get older, you’re going to have more aches and pains.
Many people accept this as a part of life and are hesitant to seek treatment for the pain they are experiencing.
At Prospira Pain Care, we are here to tell you that you don’t have to live in a world dominated by pain. Pain should not be your first thought when you wake up in the morning, and it shouldn’t be your last thought when you put your head on the pillow at night.
Maybe you’ve seen countless doctors and tried a variety of different things with little or no success. Maybe you think there isn’t any hope for you, and that you’ll just live out the rest of your years with pain consuming nearly every second of your life.
That’s unacceptable to the doctors and team members at Prospira Pain Care.
We’ve helped thousands of patients across the United States get their life back with our highly effective, minimally-invasive pain management procedures that focus on physical, emotional, and psychological healing.
We’re confident that we can do the same for you. So will you pick up the phone and call us today, or fill out the form on our website to schedule your first appointment?
You have nothing to lose, except back pain. Give our location nearest you a call today to get rid of your SI joint pain and inflammation.