Discover the Most Misdiagnosed Back Pain

Woman running in the countryside training with headphones

Lined up at our tent after a half marathon are about 10 women of all ages.

One complains of back pain that started at mile 4, another groin pain that is

aggravated after every race.  Some report tight IT bands or aggravating

hip pain that kept coming up during training.


Would you assume these women all have different problems?


Not so.

Everyone of these women came to us with a SI (sacroiliac) joint problem.


The two sacroiliac joints connect the tail bone to the pelvic bone.  It’s job

is to bear and transfer weight from the upper body to your lower body.

There is not a lot of movement in this joint, only a few millimeters, but it’s

critical to proper functioning of the spine and hips.  It is located at the main

nerve center of the body causing low back or radiating leg pain.


The SI joint problem can result from too much movement (hypermobility)

or too little movement (hypomobility) resulting in misalignment.


Causes of SI joint dysfunction include:

  • Trauma such as a fall or car accident causing misalignment
  • Sports of overuse injury causing a ligament strain 
  • Leg length difference causing an imbalance between the joints
  • Pregnancy resulting hypermobility from the hormone relaxin


At our running event, most of the women had hypermobility, some from

recent pregnancy.  They complained of increased pain as they increased

running distance and when running up hill.  They reported tightness in

their hamstrings, hip flexors, and IT band.


Clients report they have to change positions frequently to remain comfortable.


Complaints associated with SI joint dysfunction include:

  • Low back pain
  • Buttock pain
  • Hip or groin pain
  • Radiating pain down the leg (even into the knee)


These pain symptoms are frequently misdiagnosed as coming from the back.

As much as 25% of low back pain reported to a physician is actually as a result

of a problem in the SI joint.  One reason is that the problem doesn’t usually

show up on an X-ray, MRI, or CT scan.


So people are being treated instead for:

  • Herniated disc
  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Sciatica


If you are receiving treatment for any of these conditions and not seeing

improvement by treatments addressing your back, ask your clinician to

assess your SI joint.  Unfortunately, despite research supporting the need,

it is frequently overlooked.


If you have a problem with your SI joint, yoga and Pilates can be helpful due

to their focus on muscle stretching, balance, and core stability.  It’s also important

to use good body mechanics to ease stress on the joint.


This could include:

  • Avoiding postures that put uneven weight on one side
  • Standing with equal weight on both legs
  • Not crossing your legs
  • Not bending at the waist to pick up children or objects
  • Not carrying children or heavy objects on one hip
  • Avoiding walking on steep inclines


Exercise ball (swiss ball) exercises can also help develop muscle strength in the

core, back, and pelvis.  These muscles improve spinal stability.  Try using the ball

to do wall squats or bridges.  While sitting on the ball perform slow, controlled

movement of your pelvis forward/backward, side to side, and in a circular motion.


If pain continues, seek attention by a certified manual physical therapist.


Treatment should include:

  1. Mobilization of the joint to restore correct alignment
  2. Stretching of tight muscles causing imbalances
  3. Strengthening of the surrounding muscles to provide stabilization
  4. Body mechanic training to avoid improper strain on the joint
  5. Temporary use of a a belt or taping technique to provide support


All of these treatments are appropriate even during pregnancy to decrease prenatal

and postpartum pain.  If you have any further questions about your particular problem

or possible misdiagnosed back pain give us a call today at 901-316-5456.


If you are a runner, with low back, hip, or knee joint pain limiting your performance and

training regimen, click HERE to download our FREE E-Book “8 Proven Ways for Runners

to Stop Hip and Knee Pain“.