Mysterious Marbles of the Sacroiliac Joint

Jennafer Vande Vegte

This post was written by H&W faculty instructor Peter Philip, PT, ScD, COMT. Peter instructs the Differential Diagnostics of Chronic Pelvic Pain and the Sacroilliac Joint Evaluation and Treatment courses.

Have you ever palpated “marbles” - rolling masses along the SIJ that just don’t seem to go-away? Let’s take into consideration that you are a competent clinician, and that your patient is compliant with all of your requests. Clinical testing is negative for lumbar involvement, and both provocation and movement tests alike indicate involvement of the SIJ. Despite countless treatments directed at core training, and pelvic stabilization, the “marbles” persist.

Clinically speaking, often what is seen is that the innominate structures attain a more neutral alignment, where the sacrum maintains its hyper-nutated position. As a synovial joint, the SIJ is prone to swelling and subsequent scarring when placed under mechanical stress - hence the “marbles”. With great sincerity, the patient and clinicians alike focus on core strengthening, which often produces the correction of the innominate, but for reasons “unknown” to many clinicians and patients alike, the relative angle of the sacrum remains unchanged. Why would this be, how could this occur?

As a clinician, have you ever considered evaluating, and subsequently treating the anterior SIJ ligament? Running obliquely across from the sacrum to the innominate, the anterior SIJ ligaments have been found to be an underlying cause of chronic lower back pain, and sacroiliitis. As ligaments will do under mechanical stress, the anterior SIJ ligaments will stretch and scar, forming fibrous unions that limit their flexibility and hinder your manual techniques to improve SIJ osteokinematic motion. Akin to other ligaments of the body, once the origin of the mechanical insult has been addressed, the ligament can be directly treated via cross fiber massage, and to the surprise of many clinicians and patients alike heal in an expedient fashion; regardless of symptom duration. To best serve their patients, it would behoove the clinicians to take into consideration the concepts of central sensitization and knowledge that the anterior portion of the SIJ is innervated by segments L4 to S3! These and other strategies are discussed and implemented in both the Differential Diagnostics of Pelvic Pain, and The Evaluation and Treatment of the Sacroiliac Joint & Pelvic Ring courses.

Want more from Peter? You can catch him teaching his course on the SI Joint in Baltimore in July and the Differential Diagnostics course in New Canaan, CT in October.

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