Five Ways to Tell if Your Back Pain Is Due to Facet Joint Inflammation

August 2, 2022

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably experienced low back pain at least once in your life. Back pain can happen for a variety of reasons, some of which include muscle strains, herniated discs and arthritis. While many people’s low back pain is temporary and subsides after a few days of rest, others may be dealing with chronic pain that may require more targeted, long-term treatment and management.

One of these chronic low back pain conditions occurs due to facet joint inflammation. When the facet joints in your spine become inflamed, you are likely to develop facet joint syndrome.

What Are Facet Joints?

Your spinal cord consists of bones called vertebrae. Facet joints are small, cartilage-covered connections between the vertebrae of your spine. These joints allow your back to move, twist and bend. The cartilage covering the joints limits painful friction between the bones, enabling you to have a full range of motion.

When you develop a degenerative disease like spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis, or experience physical trauma to the spine from an accident, your facet joints may become inflamed. When this happens, you are likely to experience low back pain that may radiate to other parts of your body, such as your neck, shoulders and buttocks. This gradual degeneration of your facet joints can result in chronic back pain.

If your doctor determines your pain is due to damaged facet joints, you will likely be diagnosed with a condition called facet joint syndrome.

Signs Your Back Pain Stems from Facet Joint Syndrome

If you’ve recently developed back pain that tends to radiate to different parts of your body, be on the lookout for the following signs, as they may indicate facet joint syndrome:

  1.       Unpredictable pain patterns: Your back pain may be chronic but it may also occur occasionally without any predictable patterns or triggers.
  2.       Sitting is less painful than standing: Your pain may become less severe when you sit down. Conversely, walking, climbing stairs or standing for a prolonged period of time may worsen your symptoms.
  3.       Leaning forward brings relief: Walking may be easier and less painful if you can lean on a walker or shopping cart. Conversely, bending backward tends to aggravate the pain.
  4.       The pain shoots down your legs, as far as below the knee.
  5.       You have been diagnosed with arthritis: Arthritis can break down your facet joints and increase the risk of facet joint syndrome.

How Is Facet Joint Syndrome Diagnosed?

It’s likely your doctor will use a variety of methods to diagnose facet joint syndrome. They may begin by asking detailed questions about your medical history and the symptoms you’re experiencing. Your doctor may visually inspect your posture, gait and range of motion. They may also feel your low back for tender spots to determine the exact location of your pain.

Another way of diagnosing facet joint syndrome is by injecting an anesthetic in the tender joint. If the anesthetic causes your pain to immediately subside, your doctor can safely conclude you’re suffering from facet joint syndrome.

Treating Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet joint pain can be treated at home with anti-inflammatory pain medication, ice, heat and gentle exercise. If the pain persists, you may want to discuss other treatment options with your doctor.

Facet joint pain may become severe enough to prevent you from performing everyday activities. When your pain no longer responds to simple home remedies or over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatories, your doctor may recommend facet joint injections. A facet joint injection is a non-surgical procedure that involves injecting numbing medicine into the inflamed facet joint. The procedure is used to diagnose and treat symptoms of facet joint syndrome. The numbing medicine usually provides immediate relief that can last for up to two months.

Facet Joint Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatment in Marietta and Carrollton

If you’re suffering from back pain and suspect it may be caused by facet joint inflammation, one of our skilled physicians can help. At Non-Surgical Orthopaedics, we are committed to discovering the cause of your pain so we can implement the ideal treatment plan. We offer a variety of innovative and non-surgical options to treat your orthopaedic condition.

To learn more, call 770-421-1420 or send us a message.