Facet Joint Syndrome


What is Facet Joint Syndrome?

Neck or lower back pain starting after a simple twist, awkward movement or just doing something your body didn't expect (such as tripping) is often due to a locked facet joint.
Your facet joints are the bony joints at the back of your vertebrae that limit and guide spinal movements.
When a facet joint locks, you may not be able to move in the direction away from where it's locked. For example if it's locked in a flexed forward position, you will probably have difficulty arching backwards. The opposite also occurs.
The initial injury can sometimes occur days or occasionally weeks earlier. Your body will attempt to compensate for the locked joint by the neighboring joints moving more than they normally would. This can often cause pain on the opposite side to the locked facet joint and can lead to other conditions such as sciatica or arm pain.
People who have this problem recurrently are said to have facet joint syndrome. The most common cause of facet joint syndrome is weak core stability muscles that are failing to control movement of your spine. This causes the facet joints to lock from time to time.
How to Fix Facet Joint Syndrome
The solution is relatively simple. Your physiotherapist will quickly detect which facet joint is locked. Then proceed to unlock it. Usually a locked facet can be unlocked using a painless joint releasing technique.
The most common treatments used to release a locked facet include:

  •             Joint Mobilisation
  •             Localised Joint Traction
  •             Physiotherapist Impact Mobilization
  •             Soft Tissue Release / Relaxation Techniques

Years ago the treatment of choice was a joint manipulation  or joint cracking. Joint manipulations are more traumatic to the joint, so they are only suggested on very rare occasions when the gentler pain-free techniques fail to unlock the joint.