Facet joints are the small spaces between vertebrae that allow for the bending and shifting of the spine. When the nerves and tissues between the vertebrae become inflamed, you may suffer from pain in the facet joints. Fortunately, there are several effective non-surgical treatments available.
Diagnosis of facet joint pain can be challenging, because the condition can masquerade as other common spine and muscular problems. The symptoms may be reminiscent of a herniated disc, a deep infection, a fracture, or torn muscle. Even abdominal problems can mimic facet joint pain, so other issues must be ruled out for an accurate diagnosis.
Facet joint pain is marked by acute episodes of pain, but they are intermittent, usually unpredictable, and happen just a few times a month or year. Most patients experience some loss of flexibility in the spine and will report tenderness at the point of the pain. While pain from a herniated disc may radiate through the front of the leg or down into the knee and foot area, facet joint pain in the lower back will radiate down into the buttocks and the back of the upper leg. Cervical facet joint pain radiates locally, into the shoulders or upper back.
Facet joint pain is a symptom, but may have various underlying causes. You may have an arthritic or locked facet joint, bone spurs, also known as degenerative facet joint osteophytes, or joint capsule scarring, thickening or shortening. Muscle spasms can also cause pain from the facet joints. Either uncontrolled motion (caused by a lack of support from weak muscles) or degeneration (as from arthritis) can cause facet joint pain
Long term treatment will include a physical therapy routine, learning good posture, and possibly pain relief strategies. The approach that your treatment team takes will depend heavily upon the specific cause of your pain. The application of heat- hot pads or hot water bottles, or cold pad applications may provide temporary immediate relief. It may be necessary to change routines to allow for more periods of rest and getting up and moving around more frequently. Pain killers and anti-inflammatories may be prescribed to reduce swelling and irritation.
Dr. Alexander established the Non-Surgical Spine Center with the mission of providing patients and clinicians a non-surgical alternative in the treatment of spine and musculoskeletal pain. Utilizing the most current and innovative diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, our group offers patients a multitude of options for improving daily function and quality of life while significantly decreasing levels of pain. If you have back pain, feel free to contact our office at 843-856-9669 or at our contact page.
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