Provocative sacroiliac joint maneuvers and sacroiliac joint block are unreliable for diagnosing sacroiliac joint pain

Jean-Marie Berthelot, Jean-Jacques Labat, Benoît Le Goff, François Gouin, Yves Maugars
Joint, Bone, Spine: Revue du Rhumatisme 2006, 73 (1): 17-23
Mapping studies of pain elicited by injections into the sacroiliac joints (SIJs) suggest that sacroiliac joint syndrome (SIJS) may manifest as low back pain, sciatica, or trochanteric pain. Neither patient-reported symptoms nor provocative SIJ maneuvers are sensitive or specific for SIJS when SIJ block is used as the diagnostic gold standard. This has led to increasing diagnostic use of SIJ block, a procedure in which an anesthetic is injected into the joint under arthrographic guidance. However, several arguments cast doubt on the validity of SIJ block as a diagnostic gold standard. Thus, the effects of two consecutive blocks are identical in only 60% of cases, and the anesthetic diffuses out of the joint in 61% of cases, often coming into contact with the sheaths of the adjacent nerve trunks or roots, including the lumbosacral trunk (which may contribute to pain in the groin or thigh) and the L5 and S1 nerve roots. These data partly explain the limited specificity of SIJ block for the diagnosis of SIJS and the discordance between the pain elicited by the arthrography injection and the response to the block. The limitations of provocative maneuvers and SIJ blocks may stem in part from a contribution of extraarticular ligaments to the genesis of pain believed to originate within the SIJs. These ligaments include the expansion of the iliolumbar ligaments, the dorsal and ventral sacroiliac ligaments, the sacrospinous ligaments, and the sacrotuberous ligaments (sacroiliac joint lato-sensu). They play a role in locking or in allowing motion of the SIJs. Glucocorticoids may diffuse better than anesthetics within these ligaments. Furthermore, joint fusion may result in ligament unloading.

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