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What Is the Iliac Crest?

Pelvic radiograph showing iliac crest.
The pelvis is comprised of three bones: the ilium, the ischium, and the pubis.
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  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2014
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The iliac crest is the curved ridge at the top of the pelvic bone. It forms the prominent bone of the hip. The iliac bone crest is the uppermost edge of the ilium, one of three fused bones, the ilium, the ischium, and the pubis, that together make up the pelvis.

Of the three pelvic bones, the ilium is the largest. It has a wide, flat shape, and helps to protect the delicate abdominal organs. The strong, curved edge of the ilium that forms the iliac crest gives strength to the structure of the pelvis. It is also an important structure in terms of muscular support. Several important hip, back, and abdominal muscles have their origin at the iliac crest.

The iliac crest is a particularly important bone structure in medicine, as it contains large amounts of bone marrow. It is often used as a source of red bone marrow cells and stem cells for bone marrow transplant procedures. The iliac bone crest is usually considered to be a safer place to harvest bone marrow from than the vertebrae in the spine. Moreover, the quality of the bone marrow that can be extracted from this bone is generally considered to be of a very similar quality to spinal bone marrow.

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The large amount of bone that makes up the iliac bone crest is also sometimes used as a source for bone grafts. It can provide, for example, sufficient volumes of bone for many types of facial reconstruction surgery. The iliac crest posterior region, at the back of the hip, provides particularly large volumes of bone.

Iliac crest syndrome, sometimes called the iliac crest pain syndrome, is a disorder characterized by recurrent lower back pain. The pain may occur particularly after exercise, or after sitting or standing in a particular position for a long time. Another symptom that is commonly observed with this syndrome is one iliac bone crest being lower than the other. The root cause is often an inflamed or torn iliolumbar ligament, which is the ligament that connects the iliac bone crest to the spine.

An iliac crest fracture may be seen in some cases of hip trauma. These fractures are usually treated conservatively, and in a healthy adult will usually heal naturally, although pain control may be necessary. Iliac bone crest fractures are also occasionally seen as a complication in bone marrow donors, where marrow has been extracted from the ilium.

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anon316636
Post 7

My brother-in-law and I also suffer from this annoying pain. Me for about a year now, with many doctor's visits, scans, ultrasounds all negative. I am about to have an MRI so we will see about me, but my brother-in-law has been to a number of specialists and had a lot of tests, etc., and has finally been diagnosed with something quite simple.

The muscle in that area (I forget which one) is not strong enough to support what he has been doing. For those who suffer from this condition mostly after exercise (like me) is not always a contributing factor. He has been given some exercises to strengthen the muscle, which seems to be working. He was told it's just one of those things that if you don't do something to strengthen it, you're going to continually have problems.

anon291969
Post 6

I have had pain in my hip/back/pelvis. I have had every test done including a myelogram, and back surgery in 2010. I have so much pain. I cannot sleep. I have had injections, MRI's, CT scans... Help. I hate this pain.

anon249727
Post 5

I have been having pain now for over a year! I can hardy stand it anymore! I am doing physio to help with the back pain. I guess it is my SI joint that had sclerosis when i had an X-ray, but now both of the tips of my pelvis hurt. It keeps me up in the night. The pain now has traveled down the back of my left leg and has caused numbness, my knee hurts, and the base of my foot hurts. Any answers would be great!

anon176422
Post 4

For the past year, I have right iliac bone pain. I complained to all my doctors about this constant pain, they ran all the tests, and they all came back negative. One D.O. physician diagnosed it as peripheral neuropathy and has me on Tramadol. He also had me on Lyrica, but I gained too much weight and he discontinued the Lyrica. I still have this pain and I have exhausted all my resources. What do you think I should do? I would greatly appreciate an opinion.

anon114161
Post 3

I have been reading all your comments. I have had pain in my hip/back/ pelvis area with pains in the leg for 9 years. I have treated by doctors but still not found the underlying cause. After reading "pound puppy1's post I wondered if I could ask if they or any one else knew how to treat this issue mentioned below.

A common injury to the iliac is in the sacroiliac joint. The iliac, on either side of the hip, joins with the sacrum that supports the spine. As people age and arthritis sets in or as they abuse their backs and hips, the iliac can rub in the socket where it meets the sacrum, causing inflammation and back pain. The pain can spread either up the back, or down the hip to the corresponding leg.

Any advice would be amazing. --Dominique

USBcable
Post 2

A friend fractured her iliac crest last year after she fell while rollerblading. She said this was a terrible pain and described it as similar to a fractured coccyx because nothing could be done to speed the recovery. She took prescription pain medicine for a while, but she said the injury wasn't fully healed for about six months. She said she wished she would've caught herself with her hands during the initial fall. Words to the wise, indeed.

poundpuppy1
Post 1

A common injury to the iliac is in the sacroiliac joint. The iliac, on either side of the hip, joins with the sacrum that supports the spine. As people age and arthritis sets in or as they abuse their backs and hips, the iliac can rub in the socket where it meets the sacrum, causing inflammation and back pain. The pain can spread either up the back, or down the hip to the corresponding leg.

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