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Facet joints are joints located along your spine. These joints form by the boney vertebra that “stack” upon each other. They form where the vertebral bodies of each level come together on the sides. They are connected by ligaments. They allow for flexibility of the spine so you can bend and twist within limits. When you have pain associated with the joints you will usually experience pain with movements that cause the joint to open and close. Facet joint pain can occur in any area of the spine- neck, midback or low back.
Like other joints in your body, facet joints can be painful due to strain/sprain with trauma or sudden jolts/movements, or because of osteoarthritis or degeneration of one or multiple joints. The pain may involve the ligaments, the bones, or both.
Facet joint pain is common with motor vehicle accidents and strenuous sports due to the sudden movements forcing the spine in different directions, causing the joints to open too quickly or too far, injuring the ligaments , or closing to forcefully inflaming the joint. Facet joint pain is often associated with disc conditions because the height of the disc is reduced, placing addition physical stress on the joints. Facet joints are also problematic when there is a slippage of the vertebra allowing for movement of the bones placing additions physical stress on the joints.
People who have facet pain describe pain as a deep, aching and sometimes sharp, along the spinal area. Typically, there is a considerable amount of associated muscle spasm. It occasionally extends to the sides, shoulders and upper arms, buttocks and upper legs, requiring differentiation from disc or nerve pain. Abnormal discs can be seen on MRI, but facet joints can appear normal despite being a source of pain.
If the pain is acute, or of a recent onset, traditional treatment typically includes rest and anti-inflammatory medication, along with chiropractic and/or physical therapy. If the pain persists, then interventional procedures may be recommended, including a diagnostic block of anesthetic to confirm, then if positively confirmed, radiofrequency ablation may be performed to cauterize the small branches of nerves that perceive the pain from the joint, or laser surgery to destroy the nerves.
Fortunately, with the advances in medicine and the emerging field of Regenerative Medicine, there are treatment options available, which include, minimally invasive traditional treatment, injections, stem cell based products, PRP and exosomes. If you’re suffering from facet joint pain due to injury, osteoarthritis or other joint conditions, please contact us today to find out what treatment is available.