Facet Syndrome Treatment
Are you experiencing back pain that’s accompanied by difficulty twisting and bending your spine? Your facet joints can be to blame. Nearly 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time, and facet joints are estimated to be the source of pain in 15 to 45 percent of patients. In fact, 26 percent of people have been reported to suffer from facet syndrome.
With 66 individual facet joints in the human spine, pain has 66 different opportunities to strike. If facet syndrome has been causing you pain, discomfort, and limited motion, fight back now. Contact ChiroCare of Florida today to get started on a safe and effective treatment plan.
What Is a Facet Joint?
The reason the spine can bend and twist is because it’s essentially one long chain of joints. Two facet joints are located between each of the 33 vertebrae that make up the spine, connecting each bone to one another. Together, this system of facet joints allows the spine to bend forward and backward, as well as twist side to side, while still remaining stable.
Like the body’s other joints, facet joints provide support and mobility to the spine. Their movement is made possible by a cartilage lining that allows the bones they connect to glide smoothly over one another. If one of the joints stiffens up due to injury or anatomical changes in cartilage, it makes other joints move more to compensate. Eventually, the overuse of the flexible joints can cause pain, inflammation, and a reduction in motion.
What is Facet Joint Pain?
Facet syndrome goes by many names, including spinal osteoarthritis, facet arthritis, facet disease, and facet joint syndrome. Facet syndrome is classified by pain that comes from one or more facet joints. It is a degenerative disease which targets the joints of the spine, wearing down the facets and inhibiting certain motions which can impact important nerves inside of the spinal canal.
Facet joints are in constant motion. Therefore they are subject to constant pressure and are likely to degenerate as we age. When this happens, the cartilage which covers them and provides lubrication for their motion becomes thin. In severe cases, the cartilage can completely wear away. When a facet joint’s cartilage is damaged or worn, the joint will become inflamed, triggering pain signals in nearby nerve endings.
What Causes Facet Joint Pain?
When facet joints become worn or injured, conditions such as facet syndrome can arise. Facet joint pain can result from a combination of degeneration, continuous pressure on the facet joints, and other related injuries. However, aging, continued spinal stress, and wear and tear are the primary causes of facet disease.
Other common factors that can accelerate or intensify facet syndrome include:
- Sudden injuries
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Repetitive physical labor
- Changes in spinal disc height
- Spondylolisthesis (when a vertebra slips forward onto the bone below it)
Risk Factors for Facet Joint Syndrome
As we age, changes in spinal disc height and loss of cartilage can be expected, especially if you lead an active lifestyle. However, other characteristics can make us more susceptible to developing facet joint syndrome. Risk factors for facet pain include:
- Poor posture
- Wear and tear
- Improper pushing or lifting
- Weakened immune system
- Trauma, including sudden injury
What Are the Symptoms of Facet Joint Syndrome?
The primary symptom of facet joint syndrome is localized point tenderness directly over the affected facet joint. However, symptoms of facet joint syndrome depend entirely on the location of the affected facet joint. Since facet joints are located on each level of the spine, this means each level could be affected. Each level will result in a different set of symptoms. For example, if the affected joint is located in the lower spine, symptoms are typically felt in the buttock, thighs, and legs. If the affected joint is located in the upper spine, symptoms are felt around the neck and shoulders.
Generally speaking, symptoms of facet syndrome include:
- Lower back pain that can spread to the buttocks, upper thigh area, and legs
- Pain in the back of the neck that can radiate to the top of the shoulders
- Difficulty standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Pain that worsens first thing in the morning
- Abnormal curvature of the spine
- Pain between the shoulders
- Restricted range of motion
Lumbar Facet Joint Pain Symptoms
We typically refer to the lumbar spine as the lower back. The lumbar spine sustains most of the day’s forces, as it’s the part of the spine that’s often in motion and enacted to lift and carry objects. Because this area is under constant movement and pressure, facet syndrome is prevalent in the lumbar spine. Some lumbar facet syndrome symptoms include:
- Pain over the affected joints that radiates into the hips, groin, buttock, and back of the thighs
- Generalized lower back pain, which is why facet syndrome is often misdiagnosed as sciatica
- Discomfort while leaning backward
Thoracic Facet Joint Pain Symptoms
Facet joint syndrome is less common in the thoracic spine, or the middle back. Generally speaking, this area of the spine is used less to complete daily activities, therefore it is under less wear and tear. When facet joints are affected in this area, restricted motion and rigidity of the thoracic spine are often the cause. The most common thoracic facet syndrome symptoms include:
- Pain in the affected segment near the central region of the spine
- Pain that radiates between the shoulders
- Acute back pain
Cervical Facet Joint Pain Symptoms
The cervical spine is more commonly referred to as the upper back. Facet joints in this area are very prone to injury due to wear and tear. In most cases, the facet joints located at the base of the skull are the most affected. Some symptoms of cervical facet syndrome include:
- Pain that radiates from the upper back, neck, and shoulders to the mid-back
- Acute, intermittent, and unpredictable episodes of neck pain
- Localized point tenderness
How is Facet Pain Diagnosed?
You cannot diagnose facet joint syndrome with an x-ray, or CT or MRI-scan alone. At ChiroCare of Florida, diagnosis of facet joint syndrome begins with a complete review of a patient’s medical history, as well as a physical examination. Following an analysis of current signs and symptoms, a physician will likely order diagnostic tests, such as:
- X-Ray: Can determine whether abnormalities are present in the spine and if the facet joint displays any changes
- CT Scan: Shows more details about the facet joint surface
- Bone Scan: Can determine if the facet joints are inflamed, indicating an issue within the joint itself
- MRI Scan: While an MRI is not as useful for diagnosing facet syndrome, it can rule or possible disc or abdominal pain contributors
Once a physician has reviewed your medical imaging, history, and current symptoms, a conclusive diagnosis can be made.
Chiropractic Care for Facet Syndrome Treatment
Facet joint pain can be treated through a variety of non-invasive therapies. At ChiroCare of Florida, treatment begins by alleviating the inflammation and pain felt at the facet joint. By bringing the pain down first, together we can work to address the problem at the source, without added sensitivity.
Treatment options for facet syndrome include:
- Heat and Cold Therapies: To alleviate deep tissue inflammation and reduce pain
- Spinal Manipulation: To maintain a normal curvature of the spine and provide better support
- Postural Correction: To eliminate excess pressure placed on facet joints due to poor posture
- Therapeutic Massage: To target soft tissue and reduce muscle tightness and soreness
- Acupuncture: To help alleviate pain and promote proper nerve signals in the affected area
- Physical Therapy: To safely exercise the muscles and tendons of the back
- Flexion Distraction and Decompression: To widen the spinal canal and relieve pressure on joints
- Ergonomic and Lifestyle Advice: To lead a healthier, pain-free lifestyle
Regular exercise and correcting existing posture problems can substantially help alleviate facet syndrome symptoms.
Facet Joint Pain Treatment in South Florida
If facet joint syndrome is causing you chronic pain, it’s time to seek help. Facet joint pain treatment in South Florida begins at ChiroCare of Florida. From diagnosis and treatment to preventive care, the physicians at ChiroCare of Florida are here to help you live life pain-free. With 11 offices throughout the South Florida area, there is always a ChiroCare of Florida office ready to help.