Facet Joints and Their Function

To understand facet joint arthritis we need to know what the facet joints are! 24 spinal bones called vertebrae make up the spine. In between each vertebra, there are two sets of facet joints. These work as a hinge that connect the vertebrae together, and allow the lumbar spine to move easily as you bend backward and/or forward. The facet joint is also called zygapophysial joint or apophyseal joint.

Articular cartilage covers the outer part of the facet joints . This is a smooth material that  causes the ends of the bone to move smoothly against each other with minimal friction.

facet joint arthritis
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What Causes Facet Joint Arthritis?

The facet joints are supposed to fit together and smoothly glide against each other with no pressure. If pressure starts, the cartilage that covers the joint surfaces wears away.

Back injury that happened years ago can also cause the facet joints to become arthritic. Torn ligaments, fractures, as well as disc problems can cause irregular movements as well, which causes pressure and stress on the facet joint surfaces.

Facet joint arthritis does not develop immediately, Heavy, incautious twisting, rapid movements, and backward motions can increase the development of symptoms of facet joint arthritis.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Facet Joint Arthritis?

Pain from this condition is typically worse after sleeping or resting. Bending your trunk backward or sideways also causes pain on the side of the affected facet joint. Arthritic pain may start at the centre of the lower back and may radiate to one or both buttocks. It can also radiate to the thighs. It does not, however, go below the knee.

Diagnosing Facet Joint Arthritis

Obtaining a full detailed history and physical examination is important when diagnosing Facet Joint Arthritis. The process starts with the doctor asking about a patients symptoms and how the pain is affecting their day-to-day activities. The doctor will also ask a patient to point out which part of their body is in pain and whether or not the patient is  experiencing numbness and/or weakness in their legs. It is also important for the doctor to know what activities or positions worsen or relieve a patients symptoms.

The doctor will then perform a physical examination to find out which back movements or positions cause the symptoms.  This includes testing  the patients muscle strength, skin sensation and reflexes.

The doctor may also refer a patient for an x-ray examination to find out if the bone tissue in and around the facet joints are involved. X-ray images can show if bone spurs have occurred near the facet joints. The images can also show disc degeneration and vertebral collapse.

facet joint arthritis

CT scan and facet joint injection (also known as facet joint block) are also helpful in diagnosing facet joint dysfunction.

Treatment Options For Facet Joint Arthritis

There are a number of non-surgical treatment options for facet joint arthritis. While some of them can only offer short-term relief, there are also some that can give long-lasting help.

Knowing and maintaining the correct posture, changing your daily activities, and taking frequent short breaks can help relieve the symptoms. Hot or cold packs or hot showers can give short-term relief. Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (known as NSAIDs) can also help the symptoms.

For long-term effect, chiropractic adjustment is the best option. Spinal manipulation has proved to be very effective in treating patients who suffer from backache due to facet joint arthritis. Chiropractic treatments can also help reduce pain, inflammation, nerve sensitivity, and irritation. Facet Joint Dysfunction is one of the most commonly treated problems at our chiropractic clinics in Chester and North Wales We can treat it effectively by showing patients how proper posture can help to decrease pain. This in turn improves their mobility function and strength. We teach patients proper movements to protect their spine and prevent the problem from recurring. We use strengthening exercises and soft tissue massage to help minimise inflammation and pain.

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