Ever had a crook in your back? Or you couldn’t bend nor twist because of painful back muscle spasms? Or were unable to move your head because neck stiffness. One cause for all these symptoms is facet joint inflammation.
What is a facet joint? It’s the joint between the bones of your spine. These joints keep your back and neck from bending and twisting too far. Facet joints contain cartilage and lubricating fluid for smooth movement between vertebrae. And nerves that travel from your spinal cord to the periphery pass through these joints as well.
When a facet joint swells, it causes pain and stiffness. Sometimes this swelling can be so extensive that the joint enlarges, what’s referred to as facet hypertrophy. This health condition can result in pinching the nerve that runs through the joint, which causes radiating pain. This radiating pain differs from that generated by a herniated disc because it rarely spreads as far as a foot or finger.
The pain caused by an inflamed facet joint typically is intermittent and may worsen while sitting, leaning back or riding in a car. Facet joint pain is often a consequence of injury, arthritis or degeneration.
Relieving facet joint pain starts with conservative treatment. Steroids injected into the swollen joint offers many sustained relief for a good while. But facet joint injections are just one path to comfort. Other pain relief treatments include:
- heat therapy
- physical therapy
- exercise conditioning
- anti-inflammatory drugs
- maintaining good posture
- chiropractic, osteopathic manipulation