If you are experiencing pain in the spine, you may have facet joint disorder. The facet joint disorders are common in many of the disabling lower back and neck issues. These joints are positioned on the back of the spine where the vertebrae overlap. If you are having pain in your neck or back, you should see a pain specialist who can determine the exact cause of your problem. The following are some facts that you should know about facet joint disorder and what you can do about it.
1. Sometimes the symptoms of FJD can mimic other problems such as a herniated disc, a fracture, or a torn muscle. A good diagnosis is needed to determine the underlying cause of the pain.
2. There are an array of defining symptoms that indicate facet joint involvement. These include the following:
– Pain may radiate down the buttocks and down back of thigh, if there is lower back pain involvement.
– The episodes of facet joint pain are usually intermittent and can occur a few times a month to a few times a year.
– Discomfort with leaning backward.
– Persisting point tenderness where the facet joints are inflamed; decrease in flexibility.
– Pain may radiate into the shoulders or upper back.
3. Diagnosis can be made by x-ray and CT scan to determine any abnormal facet changes. The use of contrast material, local anesthetic, and cortisone is injected into the patient as well. This combination of drugs is diagnostic if it indicates relief of the acute or chronic pain.
4. There are many nonsurgical options to help alleviate the pain of Facet Joint Disorder.
– Prescribed exercises from a qualified physical therapist and/or health professional
– Good posture—your physical therapist can help you practice ideal posturing
– Heat or cold applications to the affected area
– Chiropractic adjustments
5. Surgical intervention may be needed for more serious cases. One procedure used is where the minuscule nerve endings serving the joints are destroyed so that the patient will feel no more pain. The procedure is called a facet rhizotomy. Another way of alleviating facet joint pain is by having a zygapohysial joint block, or facet joint block. If there is degeneration of an adjoining disc, it will require a bone fusion to stop the disc and facet joint problems.
Most patients with facet joint disorder can be treated without surgery. If you practice good posture and find a good physical therapist who can help you strengthen the supporting muscles around your spine, you can avoid any invasive procedures. However, a facet joint block is an effective treatment in cases where nothing else is helping. It is good to seek treatment as soon as possible so that the problem does not get worse.