Study design: In embalmed human bodies the tension of the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament was measured during incremental loading of anatomical structures that are biomechanically relevant.
Objectives: To assess the function of the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament.
Summary of background data: In many patients with aspecific low back pain or peripartum pelvic pain, pain is experienced in the region in which the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament is located. It is not well known that the ligament can be easily palpated in the area directly caudal to the posterior superior iliac spine. Data on the functional and clinical importance of this ligament are lacking.
Methods: A dissection study was performed on the sacral and lumbar regions. The tension of the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament (n = 12) was tested under loading. Tension was measured with a buckle transducer. Several structures, including the erector spinae muscle, the posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia, the sarcotuberous ligament, and the sacrum, were incrementally loaded (with forces of 0-50 newtons). The sacrum was loaded in two directions, causing nutation (ventral rotation of the sacrum relative to the iliac bones) and counternutation (the reverse).
Results: Forced nutation in the sacroiliac joints diminished the tension and forced counternutation increased the tension. Tension in the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament increased during loading of the ipsilateral sacrotuberous ligament and erector spinae muscle. The tension decreased during traction to the gluteus maximus muscle. Tension also decreased during traction to the ipsilateral and contralateral posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia in a direction simulating contraction of the latissimus dorsi muscle.
Conclusions: The long dorsal sacroiliac ligament has close anatomical relations with the erector spinae muscle, the posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia, and a specific part of the sacrotuberous ligament (tuberoiliac ligament). Functionally, it is an important link between legs, spine, and arms. The ligament is tensed when the sacroiliac joints are counternutated and slackened when nutated. The reverse holds for the sacrotuberous ligament. Slackening of the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament can be counterbalanced by both the sacrotuberous ligament and the erector muscle. Pain localized within the boundaries of the long ligament could indicate among other things a spinal condition with sustained counternutation of the sacroiliac joints. In diagnosing patients with aspecific low back pain or peripartum pelvic pain, the long dorsal sacroiliac ligament should not be neglected. Even in cases of arthrodesis of the sacroiliac joints, tension in the long ligament can still be altered by different structures.