How to Manage Facet Syndrome

How to Manage Facet Syndrome

If you live with chronic lower back pain, you’re all too familiar with the way it drains your energy, prevents you from working, and keeps you away from the activities you enjoy.

When facet syndrome causes your ongoing pain, you can overcome your symptoms and manage the problem for the long run with a customized physical therapy and rehabilitation program at Prolete Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine.

Here’s everything you need to know about facet syndrome and how to manage this challenging and painful problem.

Facet joints explained

Facet joints connect the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The two facet joints between every vertebra allow your spine to bend and twist. They also stabilize the spine and ensure it doesn’t move beyond its normal limits.

Though they’re small, facet joints are similar in structure to other joints in your body. Cartilage covers the outer surface to reduce friction and allow smooth movement. These joints are also encased in capsules that produce synovial fluid, which nourishes and lubricates the joint.

As you can imagine, facet joints get a lot of use. They’re frequently in motion, bear your upper body weight, and sustain daily wear and tear. That means they’re susceptible to facet syndrome.

Facet syndrome basics

Though facet syndrome may refer to facet joint pain, the problem is also called facet arthropathy because it most often arises from osteoarthritis. In some cases, injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory disease), and spondylolisthesis (a slipped vertebra) can also lead to facet syndrome.

The joint degeneration alone causes pain and inflammation, but you can develop other problems. Changes in the joint affect spinal stability and cause uneven movement in the spine.

Your body tries to overcome the instability by growing additional bone, which results in bone spurs. The muscles supporting the unstable area of your spine stiffen and start to spasm.

Nerves go through the facet joints as they travel out to your body. As the joints degenerate, you can end up with pinched nerves. 

Additionally, facet syndrome is often associated with disc degeneration. When spinal discs break down and lose their structure, the facet joints take on more pressure. The extra pressure accelerates cartilage degeneration in the joint.

All these changes only add to the pain and other symptoms of facet syndrome.

Facet syndrome symptoms

Facet syndrome most often develops in the lower back, but it also affects your neck. In addition to back or neck pain, you may also have tenderness over the affected area of your spine.

This condition limits your ability to move. When the degeneration occurs in your neck, you may need to turn your whole body to look to the left or right. In your lower back, facet syndrome makes it hard to stand up straight or to get up from sitting.

When the damaged facet joint is in your lower back, the pain may spread to your buttocks. And if the degeneration occurs in your neck, you may feel the pain in your head and shoulders. Pinched nerves also lead to pain and tingling that radiate down your legs or arms.

Facet syndrome management

Since we don’t have a cure for facet syndrome, a long-term management plan paves the way to less pain and a better quality of life. When you follow a customized neck and back rehabilitation program, the consistent therapeutic activities improve spinal stability and your range of motion.

Facet syndrome rehabilitation incorporates one or more of the following:

The symptoms caused by facet syndrome improve with physical therapy that stretches the spine and strengthens your abdominal and back muscles.

Don’t put up with back or neck pain, whether it’s caused by facet syndrome or another condition. To learn more about rehabilitation, call the team at Prolete Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine or book an appointment online today.

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