Hanno Steinke, Toshiyuki Saito, Janne Kuehner, Uta Reibetanz, Christoph-Eckhard Heyde, Masahiro Itoh, Anna Voelker

August 2022, pp 1 - 13 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07353-1

First Online: 27 August 2022


To investigate the innervation pattern of the sacroiliac region, especially with regard to the sacroiliac joint (SIJ). Dorsal SIJ innervation was analyzed and described. Our main hypothesis was that nerves reach the SIJ dorsally, passing ligamental compartments, as this would explain dorsal SIJ pain.


To examine sacroiliac innervation, we followed the nerves in over 50 specimens over several years. Plastinated slices were evaluated, nerves in the region were stained histologically, and the data were summarized as 3D models.


The Rami communicans and posterior branches of the spinal nerves and their branches that form a dorsal sacral plexus and communicating branches, together with corresponding vessels, were observed to form neurovascular bundles embedded by tiny fatty connectives in gaps and tunnels. Branches of L5-S1 pass the inner sacroiliac ligaments (the interosseous sacroiliac ligament and axial interosseous ligament). The outer sacroiliac ligaments (posterior sacroiliac ligaments, long posterior sacroiliac ligament, sacrotuberal ligament, thoracolumbar fascia) are passed by the S1-S4 branches. However, although the paths of these nerves are in the direction of the SIJ, they do not reach it. It is possible that impingement of the neurovascular bundles may result in pain. Moreover, the gaps and tunnels connect to the open dorsal SIJ.


Our findings suggest that Bogduk’s term “sacroiliac pain” correlates to “sacroiliac innervation”, which consists of “inner-” and “outer sacroiliac ligament innervation”, and to ventral “SIJ pain”. The watery gaps and tunnels observed could play a significant role in innervation and thus in the origins of SIJ pain.

Level of evidence

Individual cross-sectional studies with consistently applied reference standard and blinding.

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