Facet joint syndrome is a painful condition caused by degeneration of the vertebrae at the facet joints in the spine. The facet joints are the joints in the neck and spine that allow you to bend or twist. The degeneration of these joints can lead to painful complications, including stiffness and inability to twist or bend; pain, numbness, or weakness in various parts of the body; and decreased flexibility.
For people over 50, the chances of developing facet joint syndrome increase with age. Like other types of osteoarthritis, there are increased risk factors for former athletes, military veterans, and certain professions that can lead to developing facet joint syndrome in the spine. The decreased mobility and increase in pain can be debilitating, and it can seriously affect your quality of life.
Facet joint syndrome is most commonly associated with aging and osteoarthritis, but it can also be caused by injury, pressure on the joints caused by obesity, degenerative disc disease, and other conditions that narrow the cartilage space between the discs. The narrowing of the space between the vertebra causes inflammation and swelling of the joints as the discs rub against each other. This can also cause bone spurs, which decrease flexibility and increase pain symptoms even more. The narrowing of the space and the disc pressure on the nerves can lead to further complications.
The most common symptom of facet joint syndrome is pain associated with the inflammation and swelling of the joint. If nerves are being compressed, pain, numbness, and weakness can occur in the area of the joint compression. If the affected facet joint is in the neck, it can cause headaches, pain in the neck and shoulders, and even down into the arms, hands, and fingers. If the inflamed facet joint is in the lower back, the patient may experience these symptoms in the thighs, buttocks, legs, feet, and toes.
Other symptoms include a decreased range of movement and flexibility. Some patients may have to twist their entire upper body in order to see from side to side; other patients may have trouble standing and walking, or straightening their spine completely leading to a “bent over” appearance.
Conventional medical treatments include steroid and Cortisone injections directly into the joint space; medications such as anti-inflammatories and pain killers; and finally, surgical intervention including spinal fusion, bone grafts, and nerve root burning.
Chiropractic care is a non-invasive treatment option for sufferers of facet joint syndrome in MI. Gentle spinal manipulation can relieve pressure on the joints and provide additional circulation to the affected area, reducing inflammation symptoms. Other chiropractic treatments include diet and lifestyle changes such as eliminating inflammatory allergens such as gluten, weight loss, and sleep improvements to help take pressure off the joints and reduce swelling.
Chiropractic care can also provide crucial physical therapy exercises and stretches to strengthen the muscles around the spine and help take pressure off of the joints. Gentle stretching of the spine to open the disc spaces and decompress the joints in the vertebrae through spinal traction is another non-invasive technique that may provide relief from facet joint syndrome. Massage therapy, electrostimulation, and ultrasound therapy can also work to reduce swelling and inflammation in the joints and surrounding muscles.
If you or someone you know is suffering from facet joint syndrome, you don’t have to let it ruin your quality of life. Seek out treatment from chiropractic care and see what a difference it can make in decreasing your pain levels and letting you get back to the activities you enjoy the most.