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Article by John Miller

What is Facet Joint Pain? 

Facet joint pain is also commonly referred to as facet joint the 1 last update 2020/08/08 syndrome, facet joint disease, facet joint sprain but essentially it is the pain caused by a facet joint injury.Facet joint pain is also commonly referred to as facet joint syndrome, facet joint disease, facet joint sprain but essentially it is the pain caused by a facet joint injury.

Your facet joints (also known as zygapophyseal, apophyseal, or Z-joint) are synovial joints between the vertebrae of your spine. There are two facet joints (left and right) in each spinal motion segment.

Biomechanically, the function of each pair of facet joints is to guide and limit movement of that spinal motion segment.

Each section of your spine has facet joints. You may hear them referred to as your cervical facet joints (neck), thoracic facet joints (mid-back) and lumbar facet joints (low back).

arthritis associates in erie pahow to arthritis associates in erie pa for Facet joint pain is one of the most the 1 last update 2020/08/08 common causes of neck pain, back pain and thoracic spine pain.Facet joint pain is one of the most common causes of neck pain, back pain and thoracic spine pain.

What Causes Facet Joint Pain?

arthritis associates in erie pahow to arthritis associates in erie pa for Facet joint motion can be disturbed by injury. Joint motion can stiffen - known as hypomobility. Alternatively, joint motion can become excessive - known as hypermobility.

What Causes Facet Joint Hypomobility?

Facet joint hypomobility can be caused by:

  • locked facet joint,
  • facet joint arthritis,
  • degenerative facet joint osteophytes (bone spurs),
  • joint capsule scarring, thickening or shortening, or
  • protective muscle spasm.

In other words, a facet joint can stiffen due to a slow degeneration or due to uncontrolled motion, which is where your local muscle strength is important to stabilise and control your facet joints.

What Causes Facet Joint Hypermobility?

Hypermobility is usually caused by trauma:

  • fracture, 
  • dislocation, 
  • overstretched ligaments, or 
  • a disease that destroys the joints eg Rheumatoid arthritis.

arthritis associates in erie pahow to arthritis associates in erie pa for What Causes a Locked Facet Joint?

Simple movements such as a mild twist, awkward movement or just doing something your body didn''s locked. For example, if the joint is locked in a flexed forward position, you will probably have difficulty arching backwards. The opposite also occurs. In acute phases, muscle spasm will attempt to protect the injured facet joint.

The initial injury can sometimes occur days or occasionally weeks earlier. Your body will attempt to compensate for the locked joint by the neighbouring joints moving more than they normally would. This can often cause pain on the opposite side to the locked facet joint and may potentially lead to other conditions such as sciatica or arm pain. Most commonly you will notice decreased movement and pain or difficulty stretching. 

arthritis associates in erie pahow to arthritis associates in erie pa for People who have this problem recurrently are said to have facet joint syndrome. The most common cause of facet joint syndrome is weak stability muscles that are failing to control the movement of your spine.

How is a Facet Joint Injury Diagnosed?

The most accurate diagnosis of a facet joint injury is via a hands-on examination from a physiotherapist who specialises in spinal physiotherapy. Using their professional skills they will confirm the specific facet joint problem and whether it is locked, stiff or unstable. Xrays, MRI’s and CT scan are the 1 last update 2020/08/08 used to identify arthritic changes and fractures but are unable to detect a locked facet joint. The most accurate diagnosis of a facet joint injury is via a hands-on examination from a physiotherapist who specialises in spinal physiotherapy. Using their professional skills they will confirm the specific facet joint problem and whether it is locked, stiff or unstable. Xrays, MRI’s and CT scan are used to identify arthritic changes and fractures but are unable to detect a locked facet joint. 

Facet Joint Syndrome Treatment

The treatment for a locked facet joint is relatively simple. Your physiotherapist will quickly detect which facet joint is locked. Then proceed to unlock it. Usually, a locked facet can be unlocked using a painless joint releasing technique.

The next step is to regain full motion and commence strengthening or other exercises to prevent a future, recurrence. Everyone is slightly different, so your treatment will vary depending on what deficits your physiotherapist has found during your examination.

Unstable Facet Joint Treatment

Unstable or hypermobile facet joints need to be treated entirely differently to a locked facet joint. The fact that the joint already moves excessively would suggest that further joint loosening is unlikely to assist a hypermobile facet joint.

These patients respond better to a muscle control and stabilisation program. You physiotherapist will guide you.

Please check with your physiotherapist or doctor for their professional opinion.

What Results Can You Expect?

Physiotherapy will provide the majority of facet joint pain patients with complete relief. (Hu et al 2006). Locked facet joints will normally start improving immediately post-unlocking. How they progress beyond that depend on what other concomitant factors are present. How long has the joint been locked? What caused the locking? What adjacent joint motion there is available?

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    Last updated 14-Feb-2019 10:38 AM

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