The spinal column is made out of a total of 24 vertebral bodies in adults – 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae. Each vertebral body consists of two parts – a cylindrical-shaped bone, as well as an arch that is made out of various processes (bone structures that play a crucial role in the articulation of the spine).
Between each vertebra (cylindrical bone) there is a cushioning structure called a spinal disc. Additionally, the arch of each vertebral body is joined to the next one at the level of the facets present on spinal processes. These joints are often called spinal joints or facet joints, and they play a vital role in the movement of the spine.
Spinal facet joints are part of a category of joints called synovial joints. This type of joints are surrounded by a protective layer that produces synovial fluid, a fluid that is important for allowing the joints to slide on one another smoothly and to prevent bone-on-bone rubbing.
However, both the bony part and the protective layer of the joint can become damaged and affect the mobility of the spine, leading to joint pain and inflammation, restricted movement, and potentially even other symptoms.
These symptoms can manifest along the back, neck, shoulders, arms, hips, buttocks, or even legs, depending on the location of the painful joint, as well as the extent of the damage, subsequently leading to back pain or neck pain due to joint inflammation.
Causes of Spine Joint Pain
The movement of the spine can lead to degeneration of the spinal joints, which is a process that occurs as we age. Repetitive use of these joints, spinal disorders, as well as injuries or even joint infections can wear down the bones of the spine, while the synovial capsule can become inflamed and trigger pain signals. Some other possible causes of joint pain include:
- Degenerative disc disease, where spinal discs lose most of their water content due to age-related reasons. As a result, the spinal column decreases in height, and the alignment of the joints can be affected. Additionally, the cushioning effect that discs previously offered is also diminished.
- Posture mistakes that strain the back.
- Repetitive use of the spine leading to degeneration of the spine, characterised by the wearing down of the cartilage between the joints, or even the onset of spinal osteoarthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis. Some notable arthritis symptoms include difficult joint movement and mobility, and stiffness.
- Spinal disorders that affect the alignment of the spine.
Spinal injuries caused by sports, work accidents or a car crash.
Some symptoms of spinal joint problems tend to overlap with the symptoms of other spinal conditions, and as such, it is recommended to get a diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional before proceeding to the treatment phase.
That being said, spinal joint pain management can be achieved through conservative approaches such as making lifestyle changes to prevent the pain from worsening, using hot and cold therapy, physiotherapy, and exercising.
Pain medications, pain relievers, and injections are other options that are usually employed for people who suffer from spine joint pain, but these tend to be accompanied by various side-effects, and are not recommended for long-term use. Surgery should be considered only as the last option on the list, as it is highly invasive, and carries several risks.
An alternative option you can try is to decompress your spine. This can be especially beneficial if your spinal alignment has been affected by other conditions such as disc herniation or spondylolisthesis, or if nerve impingement is present, and you suffer from chronic pain.
To decompress your spine, you can use a device like the Backrack, which allows you to take care of your spinal health from the comfort of your own home.