Facet joint pain is often underdiagnosed, since it can be unpredictable and difficult to screen for. This pain isn’t uncommon in the lumbar (lower back) or cervical (neck) regions of the spine. Recurrent episodes aren’t uncommon, but it can be a challenge to know what causes a pain flare-up or what will aggravate your condition. For this reason, many patients are left with the impression that their pain is psychosomatic, or just in their head.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, however. Facet joint pain is a real form of pain, and can be treated with pain management techniques. This pain condition is one of the most common recurrent, disabling joint pain issues, though it rarely affects the spinal nerves. The symptoms of facet joint pain can lead to disability and other serious complications, which it is important for patients to be properly diagnosed and treated.
What Are the Symptoms of Facet Joint Disorders?
- Acute episodes of neck pain or lumbar pain, which are generally intermittent and happen anywhere from a few times a month to once or twice a year.
- Persistent point tenderness over the inflamed facet joints
- Loss of spinal flexibility, known as “guarding:
- Discomfort while leaning backward, but less when leaning forwards
- Low back pain that radiates down the buttocks and back of the upper leg, but not down the front of the upper leg, below the knee, or into the foot.
- Neck pain that radiates into the shoulders and upper back, but rarely into the chest, arms, or hands.
Treatment Options for Facet Joint Pain
There are both non-surgical and surgical options to treat facet joint pain. Non-surgical interventions are often recommended over invasive surgical treatments, but advanced cases may benefit from surgery.
Non-Surgical Treatments for Facet Joint Pain
There are many options to ease facet joint pain, including things you can easily do at home. Some non-surgical solutions include:
- Guided physical therapy exercises
- Maintaining good posture with adjustments to daily activities such as driving or washing dishes
- Heat or ice packs to alleviate the pain during acute episodes
- Changing daily activities, such as commuting or running errands, to allow for rest breaks
- Using anti-inflammatory medication as needed, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications and COX-2 inhibitors
- Chiropractic adjustments or osteopathic treatment
- Cervical traction or restraining collars
- Adjusting your sleep habits to avoid excessive neck or back flexion
- Facet rhizotomy procedure, which uses an electrified probe to destroy tiny nerve endings to inhibit pain signals from the joint
- Botox injections to treat muscles spasms in the area of the joint.
Surgical Treatments for Facet Joint Pain
While considered much more radical, surgery is an option to treat severe or disabling back pain due to facet joint pain. In more serious cases, it is very common for there to be disc degeneration, necessitating bone fusion surgery to treat both the fate joint issues and the degenerated disc. This isn’t a common solution to facet joint pain, but can bring relief for those who don’t get any relief from non-surgical therapies.
For many patients, non-surgical options, such as lifestyle changes, medication, exercises, and improved posture can help to manage the pain and prevent acute episodes from occurring. If you suffer from facet joint pain, there are treatment options available to you. Our pain management specialists in Fort Myers can help you discover the best possible treatments for your pain. Our personalized treatment plans, cutting-edge technology, and passionate medical professionals are ready to help you live your life without pain.
Contact the Pain Medicine Group today by calling (888) 832-3597.