Does Facet Joint Pain Go Away?
Facet joint pain especially in the context of facet joint syndrome is a multifaceted condition that requires careful consideration and comprehensive management. Chiropractors with experience in injury and trauma can be an asset.
With its focus on diagnosis, management, manual adjustments and collaboration with medical professionals it emerges as a valuable resource in addressing facet joint pain.
In this article we discuss facet joint pain and the importance of including chiropractic in the conservative management on facet joint problems.
What are Facet Joints?
Facet joints are small joints located between the vertebrae of the spine. Facet joints have smooth surfaces covered with cartilage, which facilitates smooth gliding movements during activities like bending and twisting.
Facet joints are intricately connected with ligament connective tissue and lubricated by synovial fluid.
Occasionally, facet joints can pinch a part of the connective tissue surrounding the joint, leading to “meniscoid entrapment” or “Facet Syndrome.” This phenomenon adds another layer of complexity to the understanding of facet joint pain and underscores the importance of a nuanced approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Understanding Facet Joint Pain
Facet joint pain occurs when these joints become inflamed or damaged. This can result from various factors, including:
- Degeneration: Over time, facet joints can undergo wear and tear, leading to degeneration. This is more common as we age and can contribute to pain.
- Injury or Trauma: Accidents, falls, or injuries can damage the facet joints, causing pain and discomfort.
- Arthritis: Conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can affect facet joints, leading to inflammation and pain.
What is Facet Joint Syndrome?
Facet Joint Syndrome is a condition arising from injuries to the spine. Facet joints, integral components of the spine, can cause pain and even refer pain to various parts of the body, including upper and lower extremities, chest wall, and head.
The International Association for the Study of Pain found that approximately 50% of chronic spinal pain sufferers have facet joint involvement. Moreover, a study by Manchikanti et al. (2004) revealed that 54% of whiplash patients reported the prevalence of facet joint pain, with varying ratios across different regions of the spine.
Diagnosis of Facet Joint Syndrome Should Be Collaborative
Diagnosing facet joint pain is a complex process. Clinical examination alone is insufficient, accurate diagnosis often requires imaging studies such as x-rays and MRI to rule out additional pathology. Diagnostic injections are employed to pinpoint the source of pain accurately.
A collaborative approach ensures a comprehensive understanding of the patient’s condition and facilitates targeted and effective treatment strategies.
Using conservative care (chiropractic & LLLT) in addition to less intense methods before medical interventions is important to deal with reducing risks, and optimizing successful outcomes.
However collaboration of conservative and medical care may be necessary to make facet joint pain go away.
When to Seek Care
The prevalence of facet joint pain varies depending on the region of the spine. The prevalence of chronic cervical and lumbar spine pain is 55% and 31%, respectively.
If facet joint pain persists or worsens despite self-care measures, a trial of chiropractic care may be warranted before medical intervention. Signs that you may need to seek care include:
- Persistent Pain: Pain that does not improve with rest, over-the-counter medications, or within a couple weeks.
- Radiating Symptoms: Pain radiating down the legs or arms.
- Limited Mobility: Difficulty moving or performing daily activities.
Does Facet Joint Pain Go Away?
Severity of the condition, treatment approach, and patient compliance may play a major role in ensuring facet joint pain goes away. Some treatments options may include:
- Chiropractic adjustments – Manual adjustments aim to realign the spine, reducing pressure on the facet joints and alleviating pain.
- Physical Therapy – Targeted exercises and stretches prescribed by a physical therapist can improve strength, flexibility, and overall spinal health.
- Medication – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSADIS) or pain relievers may be recommended to manage pain and inflammation.
- Injections – In some cases, corticosteroid injections directly into the facet joint may provide relief from inflammation and pain.
- Self-care/Lifestyle – Giving your body time to heal by resting and using ice to reduce inflammation can help alleviate pain. Exercises and postural awareness promote flexibility and relieve stress on the joints throughout the day.
- Interferential Current Therapy (ICT): ICT is a way to help with pain and healing without using drugs or invasive techniques through small electrical currents going deep into the body.
- Low-Level Laser Therapy (LLLT): can be effective in treating chronic joint disorders, musculoskeletal pain, and chronic low back pain. It has show to reduce pain, inflammation and promote healing offering a safer alternative to opioids and NSAIDs.
The Importance of Chiropractic Care in Managing Facet Joint Pain
Chiropractic care involves manual adjustments that aim to realign the spine, reducing pressure on the facet joints and alleviating pain. Collaborating with a doctor on diagnostic injections is another aspect highlighted in the management of facet joint pain.