Okay, so here’s a post I definitely could have used back in the day, so I’m putting it out there in case it helps!
When I first began to experience SI joint dysfunction, I thought of it as “hip pain.” After all, in our day to day lives, we usually refer to the region around our pelvis and waist as “the hips.”
However, when it comes to medical terminology, anatomically speaking, the SI joint is completely different joint from the hip joint.
The sacroiliac joint, or SI joint, is here towards the back of the body, where the pelvis and spine connect:
And the hip joint is towards the front of the pelvis: it’s where your thigh bone fits into the hip socket:
When I first developed SI joint dysfunction, I was totally confused about why there seemed to be so much information out there on “the hips,” but so little on the problem I was actually having.
Back then, in 2011, my chiropractor was the only person I could find who was actually familiar with sacroiliac joint dysfunction. I sometimes wondered if I was crazy, since the first doctors and PT’s I saw seemed to have no idea what I was talking about when I described this weird pain that radiated from my low back.
I could find so many articles online about the hip joint. Living in the Boston area, I could find countless doctors whose online profiles said they treated the hip. Yet nowhere could I find anyone who listed “the sacroiliac joint” as a specialty.
I even went to see an orthopedist who performed “hip surgery,” only to find he wasn’t really familiar with the SI joint.
Why don’t more people treat the SI joint?
In a nutshell, what it comes down to is our limited medical knowledge of the sacroiliac joint.
SI joint dysfunction was actually a fairly common diagnosis in the early 1900’s. It was actually the “go-to” explanation for why patients had lower back pain. However doctors got such poor results from their attempts to operate on it that they switched their attention over to the spine itself, where they were able to achieve more clear-cut success with surgery.
This is why, now, our knowledge of the SI joint is so limited (although thankfully, awareness is growing).
So this is why you can have doctors and physical therapists who specialize in treating hip pain give you a blank stare when you ask about the sacroiliac joint.
Despite the words that we, as patients, may use naturally when attempting to describe “hip pain,” the subjects doctors learn as they go through medical school is completely different. There’s really no correlation between the two.
This was so, so confusing for me at the time. It made no sense to me that an orthopedist could operate on “the hip joint,” but couldn’t give me straight answers on the SI joint.
I also kept Googling “hip pain” over and over, and getting freaked out by the articles I came across for things like labral tears. It took me a while to understand that the articles I was reading weren’t about the problem I had– the SI joint and the hip joint are completely separate things.
If you have SI joint dysfunction, it certainly can cause symptoms in other parts of the body. But there’s no reason for you to freak out like I did because I was getting the two joints confused.
The good news is that awareness of the sacroiliac joint seems to have grown in leaps and bounds since I was first searching back in 2011. So hopefully my entire point here (about how you can have doctors treating the hip joint who know nothing about the SI joint) will eventually be moot.
But right now I’m putting it out there for any of you who might need it.
If you feel like you’re having trouble finding a doctor who understands your problem, you’re not crazy– here are some tips.
Additionally, here is a post I wrote outlining some of the major structures of the pelvis, and how they relate to each other.
My page on Defining SI Joint Dysfunction covers the causes, symptoms, and effects on the rest of the body.
Okay, that’s all for now! I hope this post was helpful.
My goal on this blog is not only to provide information, but also to give you a sense of context, in case you ever find yourself having those moments where you wonder if you’re completely crazy, like I did.
You’re not. And there are answers out there for you.
Any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!
4 thoughts on “Why are there so many doctors who treat “the hip,” but not the SI joint?”
Even though I’d seen your posts before, this one has hit home and I’ll use it when I see the physio tomorrow – I have “hip pain” that can be chronic, and a significant interference in daily life when sitting or walking, but it’s never been properly investigated in terms of the origin. Thank you for sharing!
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Hi Caz– I’m sorry to hear about your hip pain, but I’m so glad this post was helpful! Good luck at your appointment– hope you get some answers!
My rheumatologist was pretty familiar with the SI joint, but methinks this is only an option if you have more arthritic SI joint inflammation. I have AS – ankylosing spondolitis- an inflammatory arthritis, located primarily in the rt SI joint. But I do think this might be something to look at for some.
Thank you Jenn! That’s a really interesting point, and I bet you’re right.