Facet Joint Syndrome, also called facet joint sprain is a common cause of back pain. The facet joints, also termed zygapophyseal joints, are located at the back of the spine. There are two joints at each level, one on either side of the spine.
The facet joints are classified as synovial joints and are enclosed within a joint capsule. There is synovial fluid within the capsule and the joint surfaces are covered with hyaline cartilage. The role of the facet joints is to control excessive movement especially in rotation and extension, and therefore provide stability for the spine.
Injuries to the facet joints can have many causes, but essentially it is a sprain and as such, it is caused by excessive movement causing damage to the joint capsule, which in turn cause swelling, inflammation and pain. The pain in turn causes a reactive muscle spasm, which is a protective mechanism. The result is a sudden severe pain and inability to move comfortably.
Most injuries are caused by what is called recurrent micro-trauma, it means many small repetitive injuries, until the proverbial ‘last straw’. That is why people often hurt themselves doing very trivial things such as bending to pick up a pen, and they hurt themselves before they even get to lift the pen.
The initial treatment involves avoiding the movements that cause the joints to be painful, but prolonged rest is not advisable. Once the diagnosis is made the appropriate treatment can be given.
Treatment may include:
- Spinal manipulation/adjustments to release the muscle spasm.
- Exercise, Chiropractors recommend specific exercises to help relieve the pain and strengthen the muscles in the back so that they can better support the spine.
- Posture is extremely important in spinal health and overall wellness. Your chiropractor will help you achieve good, healthy posture and give you exercises to do at home to help you maintain good posture and retrain your body to have better posture.
- Heat or cold therapy may be recommended to help control pain.
- Changes in activities you may be advised to take frequent breaks if you sit at a desk all day or to shorten your commute. There may be some activities that you won’t be able to do for a while or won’t be able to do for long periods of time until your back heals.
Chiropractic is a safe, effective, non-invasive, and drug free way to treat facet joint syndrome, relieve back pain, and help you regain your mobility. Talk to your chiropractor about your treatment options for facet joint syndrome.