Sacroiliac disability may occur temporary or permanently, possibly requiring surgical treatment, or may occur postoperatively and doom a patient to lifelong physical limitation. Disability is a very subjective word, since it means different things to different people and in many contexts. However, regardless of how it is defined, disability is never a fate that anyone wants to suffer…
Being disabled might be a transient state for sacroiliac joint patients or might be permanent. However, we must state right from the start that disability over long timelines is not commonplace in SIJ patients, which creates a hopeful start for this otherwise somber article topic.
This dialog details the various manifestations of disability in sacroiliac joint pain patients. We will look at functional and legal definitions of disability, as well as how patients might become truly disabled due to SIJ problems.
Sacroiliac Disability Definitions
Technically, any reduction in typical physical functionality due to sacroiliac pain or range of motion change can be called a disability. However, most people tend to use the word to define a condition where a patient can not function to the level of being able to care for themselves, work or perform normal physical exertions and activities. Legal definitions range, but usually focus on the inability to work chosen career paths, due to pain or functional inability.
For the remainder of this essay, we will use the term disability to describe a condition where the patient can not ambulate correctly, if at all, cannot work, cannot perform basic personal responsibilities and can not do all the things they would normally accomplish as part of an active life.
Disability can be a direct result of pathology in the sacroiliac joint formed over time or might be produced acutely in less common scenarios. Acute presentations of disability are almost always related to traumatic injury to the SI joint, pelvic ilium or sacral spine, while accumulated damage leading to disability may result from excessive degeneration, disease or ligamentous issue leading to dysfunction.
All of these conditions are treatable and are therefore classified as potential causes of temporary disability and not legal or lasting disability in most instances. Generally, conservative or surgical treatment can resolve most sacroiliac joint problems, restoring functionality and enabling the patient to resume a normal or nearly normal level of physical activity once healed.
The leading cause of permanent disability in relation to a sacroiliac joint diagnosis of any type is failed surgical intervention. Unsuccessful sacroiliac surgery can cause any patient to permanent lose functionality due to instability or chronic, debilitating pain. While most sacroiliac surgeries are successful, some do fail and can produce the worst possible outcomes of permanent reduction in physical functionality. Unsuccessful surgery is also the leading cause of successful disability claims in the legal social benefit system.
Curing Sacroiliac Disability
Transient disability can most often be treated successfully. Most sacroiliac joint dysfunction related to ligamentous problems can be treated conservatively. Meanwhile, most traumatic injuries usually only require the benefit of time and organic healing to resolve. Only a minority of conditions, including some types of sacroiliitis and joint degeneration, may require surgical treatment. We detail the full range of treatment options for all SIJ diagnoses in our dedicated sacroiliac treatment section.
For patients who already tried the surgical route, but experienced treatment failure, there is often little hope. These patients have already undertaken the most dramatic of all treatments and were disappointed with the outcome. However, there is always the chance for successful reoperation of the anatomical site, especially if the cause of previous surgical failure can be ascertained and remedied.
We also must mention that some sacroiliac joint patients have been misdiagnosed all along and have suffered the usual failure of many conservative treatments, ending with an unsuccessful surgery. We have observed this identical case profile countless times over many years. In a few cases, there might be some other structural issue in the hip joint or lumbar spine that is the real cause of suffering.
In most of these cases, the patient is suffering from a mindbody pain syndrome. The way to end these tortures is with the application of knowledge therapy, and never the use of physical care. After all, while the joint may have been blamed for causing the pain, the symptoms are only a consequence of a much larger mindbody syndrome that will never enjoy the benefit of a cure from any type of structurally-targeting therapy.