Facet joint pain refers to pain that affects a specific type of joints along the spine, called facet joints. There are 4 facet joints that are linked to each vertebra, where two joints are situated at the top of the bony structure at the back of the vertebrae, and the other two are situated at the bottom of this structure. When any of these joints is affected due to various causes, pain, and other symptoms, can follow as a result.
What Causes Facet Joint Pain
Facet joints provide mobility to the spine, allowing for it to bend and twist. However, with time, these motions are also the ones to contribute to the wearing down of the facet joints through repetitive use and weight-bearing activities. That being said, some of the most common causes of problems with the facet joints include:
- Age-related degeneration of the spinal structures, including that of the vertebrae and spinal discs, which can in affect the joints of the spine.
- Back injuries that were either sudden and caused considerable damage to the spine, or repetitive motions that cause the spine to wear down at an accelerated pace.
- Bad posture that is upheld for prolonged periods of time.
- Onset of spinal osteoarthritis that affects the facet joints, or the formation of bone spurs in close proximity to the joint.
- Spinal conditions such as spondylolisthesis, where a vertebral body slips out of its original place, and affects the balance and alignment of the spine and its structures.
In some cases, problems with the facet joints may be accompanied by other spinal problems, that eventually lead to nerve pinching, one of the most common causes of back and neck pain. This is especially the case for people who suffer from disc disorders, bone spurs, or spondylolisthesis.
What Does Facet Joint Pain Feel Like?
Facet joint pain tends to occur locally, but problems with facet joints can at times also lead to referred pain, which spreads either to other regions of the back, or to other parts of the body, such as the hips, shoulders, arms or legs. Many people who experience pain also notice a reduced range of motion in their spine, characterised by a limited ability to bend and/or twist their spine.
What are the Treatment Options for Facet Joint Pain?
The right course of treatment largely depends on the cause of the pain. For cases of degenerative spine conditions, the only option is to manage the pain, as degeneration of spinal structures cannot be reversed.
For a large number of people who suffer from facet joint pain, however, there are various non-invasive approaches that can prove useful in alleviating pain, which range from lifestyle adjustments to self-treatment devices. Some examples include:
- Resting and avoiding physical activities that may worsen the pain.
- Applying heated or iced packs to the painful region of the back in order to lessen the inflammation and pain.
- Keeping the spine strong through mild exercises.
- Correcting posture and decompressing the spine to reduce the pressure and load that is placed upon it. Correcting one’s posture can easily be done at home (while laying down) with the help of a device called the Backrack.