Facet joint syndromes


In as many as 45% of people with lower back pain, facet joint syndrome is to blame. If you experience lower back pain combined with inflexibility, you may have facet joint syndrome. The good news is that facet joint syndrome responds incredibly well to chiropractic manipulation. The human spine is made up of 66 unique facet joints, which creates many opportunities for back pain. Facet joints are the joints between the vertebrae that allow the spine to bend and flex; there are two joints that connect each vertebrae, allowing extension and flexion and also providing stability to the spine.

Facet joints have a cartilage lining that supports smooth movement between the bones they connect. If a facet joint is injured, or if the cushion of cartilage is compromised, the other facet joints in the spine may need to overcompensate, eventually leading to inflammation, stiffness, and back pain. Facet joint syndrome is also referred to as spinal osteoarthritis and is classified by pain in the facet joints. A degenerative disease, facet joint syndrome gradually wears down the joints in the spine, inhibiting motion and potentially impacting the nerves within the spine.

Because facet joints are constantly moving, the joints and the cartilage that cushions and supports them undergo a significant amount of pressure on a daily basis and may degenerate with age. Facet joint syndrome may be caused by degeneration, sustained pressure on the facet joints, and injury, but the most common causes of facet joint syndrome are simply stress, age, and wear. Facet joint syndrome may be exacerbated by sudden trauma or injury, a sedentary lifestyle, physical labor, or unnatural movement in the discs or vertebrae. Some conditions and habits increase the risk of facet joint syndrome, such as obesity, smoking, genetics, problems with posture, and a weakened immune system.

The most common symptom of facet joint syndrome is pain or tenderness near the affected joint. Symptoms vary, however, depending on the location of the joint in the spinal column. When the affected facet joint is in the lumbar spine, or the lower back, people may experience discomfort while leaning back, and the pain may radiate from the lower back into the hips, groin, buttocks, and hamstrings. Because the lumbar vertebrae bear most of the pressures on the back, lumbar facet joint syndrome is the most common type of facet joint syndrome.

In the thoracic spine, or the middle part of the back, facet joint syndrome is less common, as this part of the back undergoes less wear and tear on a daily basis. Rigidity of the thoracic spine is usually the primary cause of facet joint syndrome in this part of the back. Symptoms of thoracic facet joint pain include pain in the center of the spine, and pain that radiates out from the center of the spine to the shoulders. Cervical facet joint syndrome affects the upper back. The facet joints in the upper back are also extremely prone to injury and wear, particularly the facet joints that are located at the base of the skull. You may have cervical facet joint syndrome if you have pain or tenderness in the neck, or pain that radiates from the neck outward and downward, to the shoulders and back.

Facet joint syndrome is typically diagnosed with a thorough review of medical history as well as a physical examination. Depending on the symptoms, a diagnostic test, like an MRI or x-ray, may be ordered. Once diagnosed, facet joint syndrome can be effectively treated by chiropractic care and other non-invasive treatments. Your chiropractor will first help reduce the pain and inflammation at the location of the joint, allowing treatment to continue painlessly. In addition to spinal manipulation, treatment may include heat therapy or cold therapy, massage, physical therapy, postural correction, and ergonomic or lifestyle advice. In many cases, once the initial pain of facet joint syndrome is addressed, patients can find relief from syndromes by increasing gentle exercise and focusing on proper posture and healthy habits. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of facet joint syndrome, chiropractic treatment can help reduce pain and discomfort for many types of spinal issues, including facet joint syndrome.

Chronic pain in Gen Z

According to a survey conducted by the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, a nonprofit educational organization that informs the public about the benefits of chiropractic care, many young adults — specifically those in Generation Z — experienced chronic pain in their necks, shoulders, and backs before the age of 16. Surveyed members of Generation Z, which includes people born between 1996 and 2010, reported that in some cases, chronic pain began under the age of 10, and in most cases was largely connected to sleep posture, sports, and the weight distribution of heavy bookbags, as well as posture while using technology. Nearly half of the surveyed young adults indicated a preference for drug-free pain management, including chiropractic care, possibly complemented by other, more conventional types of medical treatment.

More than half of the 200 young adults surveyed expressed curiosity about and interest in chiropractic care and cited effectiveness as the most important factor in choosing a treatment plan for their chronic pain, prioritizing effectiveness over both cost and convenience. Representatives from the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress noted that chronic pain in Generation Z is not a widely studied topic and were encouraged by the survey’s results, citing a lessened interest in pharmacological pain management as a beneficial characteristic within this generation. Survey respondents ranged in age from 18 to 24 and were nearly evenly split between genders.

Many parents or doctors may attribute early-onset pain in the neck, shoulders, and back to growth spurts. While growing pains may be at least partly responsible for discomfort in childhood, it is important to assess the situation to determine whether physical activity has damaged the ligaments, tendons, or joints. Chiropractic examinations and treatments can prevent early damage from developing into chronic pain later in life. Consultation with a doctor of chiropractic can determine the possible causes of childhood pain and develop a treatment plan to address the pain and protect the area from further injury. In many cases, with younger patients, chiropractic methods can treat musculoskeletal ailments and provide relief from pain while also helping patients establish habits that will allow them to participate in athletic activities more safely.

While most of the pain reported by Generation Z survey respondents was classified as medium-level pain, many people surveyed indicated that their pain was chronic and either staying the same or worsening. A small percentage of respondents had received chiropractic care and found it effective, while a larger percentage indicated interest in chiropractic care and other drug-free treatments. Generation Z survey respondents widely believe that chiropractic care should be covered by health insurance, and they also believe that other non-pharmaceutical modalities, like physical therapy, massage, reiki, and reflexology should be paid for by health insurance. Despite the fact that chronic pain is most commonly associated with older adults, the results of this survey indicate that healthcare providers should address possible sources of chronic pain in younger adults as well. With effective, drug-free treatment, these younger adults can establish healthy habits that will allow them to move into adulthood and enjoy their lives with less pain and more optimal health and well-being.


Reaves Chiropractic