What happens if sacroiliitis is left untreated?

Answered by Ricardo McCardle

If sacroiliitis is left untreated, it can lead to long-term complications and potentially permanent joint damage. This condition affects the sacroiliac joints, which are located in the lower back where the sacrum (the triangular bone at the base of the spine) and the ilium (the large pelvic bone) meet. The inflammation and damage that occurs in sacroiliitis can cause a range of symptoms and difficulties.

One of the initial signs of sacroiliitis is a limited range of motion in the lower back and hips. This can make it challenging to perform everyday activities that require bending, twisting, or reaching. For example, tying your shoes or reaching for objects on high shelves may become difficult or even impossible. This limitation in movement can significantly impact your independence and quality of life.

As the inflammation progresses and worsens, the pain associated with sacroiliitis can become more intense and chronic. The pain is typically felt in the lower back, buttocks, and hips, and it may radiate down the legs. This can make it difficult to walk, stand, or sit for prolonged periods. Additionally, the pain may worsen with activity and improve with rest, leading to a decrease in physical activity and overall fitness.

Untreated sacroiliitis can also lead to the development of muscle imbalances and weakness. When the sacroiliac joints are inflamed, the surrounding muscles may become tight or tense as a protective mechanism. This can lead to muscle imbalances and result in further pain and discomfort. Over time, the weakened muscles may not provide adequate support to the affected joints, increasing the risk of further damage and instability.

Another potential consequence of untreated sacroiliitis is the development of compensatory movement patterns. When the sacroiliac joints are painful or restricted in movement, the body may compensate by altering its movement patterns. This can place additional stress on other joints and muscles, potentially leading to secondary issues such as knee, hip, or lower back pain. These compensatory patterns can further contribute to a decrease in overall mobility and function.

In severe cases, chronic sacroiliitis can lead to joint fusion or ankylosis. This is a condition where the sacroiliac joints become completely fused together, resulting in a loss of mobility and permanent disability. Joint fusion is irreversible and can significantly impact an individual’s ability to perform basic activities of daily living.

It is important to seek medical attention and treatment for sacroiliitis to prevent these potential complications. Early intervention, including medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications, can help manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, and slow the progression of the condition. Regular exercise and stretching can also help maintain joint mobility and strengthen supportive muscles.

If left untreated, sacroiliitis can have significant consequences including permanent joint damage, limited range of motion, chronic pain, muscle imbalances, compensatory movement patterns, and potential joint fusion leading to disability. Seeking appropriate medical care and adhering to a treatment plan can help minimize these risks and improve overall function and quality of life.