Changing the narrative in diagnosis and management of pain in the sacroiliac joint area

Thorvaldur S. Palsson*, William Gibson, Ben Darlow, Samantha Bunzli, Gregory Lehman, Martin Rabey, Niamh Moloney, Henrik B. Vaegter, Matthew K. Bagg, Mervyn Travers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) is often considered to be involved when people present for care with low back pain where SIJ is located. However, determining why the pain has arisen can be challenging, especially in the absence of a specific cause such as pregnancy, disease, or trauma, when the SIJ might be identified as a source of symptoms with the help of manual clinical tests. Nonspecific SIJ-related pain is commonly suggested to be causally associated with movement problems in the SIJ(s) - a diagnosis traditionally derived from manual assessment of movements of the SIJ complex. Management choices often consist of patient education, manual treatment, and exercise. Although some elements of management are consistent with guidelines, this Perspective article argues that the assumptions on which these diagnoses and treatments are based are problematic, particularly if they reinforce unhelpful, pathoanatomical beliefs. This article reviews the evidence regarding the clinical detection and diagnosis of SIJ movement dysfunction. In particular, it questions the continued use of assessing movement dysfunction despite mounting evidence undermining the biological plausibility and subsequent treatment paradigms based on such diagnoses. Clinicians are encouraged to align their assessment methods and explanatory models with contemporary science to reduce the risk of their diagnoses and choice of intervention negatively affecting clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1511-1519
Number of pages9
JournalPhysical Therapy
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2019

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Changing the narrative in diagnosis and management of pain in the sacroiliac joint area'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this