Facet Joints Versus SI (Sacroiliac) Joints

August 13, 2022

Although facet joints and sacroiliac (SI) joints are both important components of your spine, they are two entirely separate structures with different functions within the spinal column.

Facet joints are small joints located on each side of the vertebrae (bones) of your spine. They allow you to bend, extend, twist and rotate your spine. Just like any other joints, your facet joints are likely to wear and degrade as you age. This gradual deterioration can lead to degenerative disease, such as osteoarthritis, which can cause chronic back pain.

Th SI joints connect the spine to the pelvis. There are only two of these joints located on each side of your low back. The SI joints are responsible for carrying your upper body weight when you walk or stand. Like facet joints, the SI joints can be affected by various conditions. The SI joints can degenerate due to acute trauma from accidents, chronic trauma from repetitive movement, childbirth and degenerative disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re suffering from chronic low back pain, your condition may be linked to problems with your facet joints, SI joints or both.

Facet Joint Syndrome

When one or more of your facet joints become inflamed, you may experience pain in your low back and buttocks, commonly known as facet joint syndrome. The inflammation is usually caused by degenerative changes in your spine. When your spine deteriorates, the cartilage in your joints gradually wears away. As a result, your facet joints become irritated, triggering pain in nearby nerves and muscles.

Facet Joint Syndrome Symptoms

For many people, facet joint degeneration goes unnoticed. The condition is often asymptomatic until an event like trauma triggers pain. Common symptoms of facet joint syndrome include:

  •         Dull pain in the low back which may radiate to the buttocks, neck, shoulders and back of the skull
  •         Pain when bending, twisting or standing for a prolonged period of time
  •         The pain can be either chronic or come in spurts

Facet Joint Syndrome Treatment

While it’s not possible to reverse facet joint degeneration, there are several options you can explore to help manage and alleviate your pain.

If you spend several hours a day sitting behind a desk, make proper adjustments to the way you sit to eliminate bad posture. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can also help relieve pressure on your facet joints.

Painful facet joints respond well to gentle movement. Your doctor may recommend exercise in the form of physical therapy to keep the pain at bay. A skilled physical therapist can help you strengthen your back, stomach and leg muscles. They can also instruct you on how to properly lift, sit, stretch and walk. Keep in mind, physical therapy can only yield results if it’s done consistently.

Your facet joint syndrome can also be managed with pain management injections, such as facet joint injections and epidural steroid injections. These minimally invasive procedures can treat both the causes and symptoms of your pain, bringing you much-needed relief.

Sacroiliitis

Your low back pain may also be a symptom of sacroiliitis, which occurs when one or both of your SI joints are inflamed. There are several potential causes of SI joint inflammation, including arthritis, physical injury and even pregnancy. The latter may alter the way you walk, making your SI joints move abnormally.

Sacroiliitis is often mistaken for other conditions, including degenerative disc disease and facet joint syndrome, as the symptoms are often the same for all three conditions. If your doctor suspects you have sacroiliitis, they may recommend imaging tests of your pelvis to make a correct diagnosis.

Sacroiliitis Symptoms

Symptoms of sacroiliitis include pain in the low back and buttocks. The pain can be either chronic or intermittent and will typically be aggravated by prolonged standing, running and climbing.

Sacroiliitis Treatment

There are several ways to treat sacroiliitis. People usually begin with simple at-home remedies, such as over-the-counter pain medication and ice-and-heat therapy. While at-home remedies are easy and inexpensive, their efficacy may fade over prolonged periods of regular use. Many people suffering from sacroiliitis and other orthopaedic conditions find long-term relief through physical therapy, pain management injections and regenerative therapies, including:

  •         SI joint injections
  •         Radiofrequency lesioning, which uses electrical impulses to destroy painful nerve tissue
  •         Regenerative medicine, which bolsters your body’s inherent ability to heal itself

Explore Minimally Invasive Facet Joint Syndrome and Sacroiliitis Treatments in Georgia

At Non-Surgical Orthopaedics, we specialize in treating your pain using a variety of non-invasive and minimally invasive methods and procedures.

Our team of dedicated medical professionals is committed to finding the optimal solution for your facet joint syndrome and other painful orthopaedic conditions.

To schedule an appointment in Marietta or Carrollton, call 770-421-1420.

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