The sacroiliac joints are two joints that connect your spine to your pelvis. Like other joints in your body, the sacroiliac (SI) joints are covered with a layer of cartilage, which helps with movement and flexibility and reduces shock.When that cartilage wears away, it is called osteoarthritis, which is a common form of sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Osteoarthritis can cause a great deal of pain in the lower back or on the back of the hips. Pregnancy is also a common cause of sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
SI joint pain and dysfunction can cause low back pain and difficulty with movement.
Qualifying for Disability Under the Official Disability Listings
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a specific disability listing for evaluating whether sacroiliac joint dysfunction has caused disability. If you have this disorder, you will most likely be evaluated under the listing for Major Dysfunction of a Joint (section 1.02 in the SSA Blue Book), Disorders of the Spine (section 1.04 in the SSA Blue Book) or Inflammatory Arthritis (section 14.09 in the SSA Blue Book).
Major Dysfunctions of a Joint
This listing can be used to evaluate any major dysfunction of a joint, regardless of the medical diagnosis. Whether your joint dysfunction was caused by a single traumatic event, like an auto accident, or whether it is caused by ongoing chronic arthritis, you will be evaluated the same way.
To qualify for disability under this listing, your joint dysfunction must be characterized by anatomical deformity (such as scoliosis or leg length discrepancy), chronic pain, and stiffness, along with loss or change of motion in the joint and evidence of the narrowing of joint spaces, bony destruction, or ankylosis of the sacroiliac joint.
In addition, your hip, knee, or ankle joint must be involved (with sacroiliac joint dysfunction, hip joint involvement is the most common) to such an extent that your ability to walk is very limited. The SSA will consider your ability to walk very limited if you cannot walk without using a walker, two canes, or two crutches; if you cannot walk a block or climb a few steps at a reasonable pace; or if you cannot use public transportation.
Disorders of the Spine and Inflammatory Arthritis
If your condition doesn't fit the above parameters, it's possible that you might be able to qualify for benefits under the SSA's listings for disorders of the spine or inflammatory arthritis, depending on your symptoms. For more information, see our article on disability and arthritis, which explains the listing criteria for disorders of the spine and inflammatory arthritis (including ankylosing spondylitis, a common cause of SI joint pain).
Qualifying for Disability Through Low Functional Capacity
If you suffer from sacroiliac joint dysfunction but do not meet the criteria under the listings discussed above, the SSA will look at your “residual functional capacity,” or “RFC.” Your RFC assessment is used by the SSA to determine what kind of work you are still capable of doing despite the limitations from your medical conditions. Common limitations of people with sacroiliac joint dysfunction include being unable to walk for extended periods of time, being unable to walk on uneven surfaces, and being unable to sit or stand in one position for extended periods of time. Many people also experience extreme pain associated with sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Your medical records should reflect any pain you are in and should also reflect any limiting side effects you have from medication.
If the SSA finds that your RFC is not sufficiently limiting, and that you are capable of performing a job you used to have, or another other job, the SSA can deny your claim. But if the SSA determines that the symptoms associated with your impairment and treatment are so limiting that there is no job you can perform, you will be awarded benefits under what is called a “medical-vocational allowance.”
Learn more about RFCs and medical-vocational allowances.