Facet joint arthritis is one of the most common causes of intense low back pain and neck pain. Most adults complain of back pain, and the odds increase with age. However, the degree of pain can vary. Facet joint arthritis is linked with disabling pain, but there’s good news. This type of arthritis almost never involves spinal nerves and there are alternatives to medications for treating the pain. We also invite you to learn more about Dr. Nikesh Seth and other providers including Dr. Anne-Marie Cosijns, Dr. Lisa Sparks, Dr. Michael Givens, and our team of Nurse Practitioners.
Only a doctor can diagnose facet joint arthritis, but there are common symptoms. They can include sharp, severe pain that usually “just pops up” and is intermittent. It might happen occasionally throughout the month or just a couple times per year. There’s usually a tender point (which is on top of the inflamed facet joints) and a measurable amount of spinal muscle flexibility loss (however, patients may or may not notice this-a physical therapist can help identify this). Pain often increases when a patient leans back, and if the lower back pain is present, it might travel down the back of the leg.
Just like the lower back, facet joint pain in the neck (or cervical spine) may radiate into the shoulder, upper back, and sometimes (but rarely) down the arm. Since the pain can be so unpredictable, some patients have been told that it’s psychosomatic or “all in their head.” However, facet joint pain is a real problem. For those who suffer from low back pain, sitting in cars can be very painful.
Facet joint pain is also known as osteoarthritis. It occurs when the facet joints (joints between two spinal vertebrae) are swollen from osteoarthritis. These facet joints are in charge of giving you flexibility in the back for bending and twisting. Nerves use these joints as a pathway, and healthy facet joints feature cartilage to allow movement without grinding. However, when osteoarthritis is present, there can be pinching, swelling, and a grinding away of protective lubricant.
Diagnosing facet joint pain may include a spinal x-ray, CT scan, and/or MRI scan. Each of these tools may pinpoint the cause by focusing on different parts of the body. Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment options can be discussed. There are alternative treatments for pain that may include or radiofrequency ablation. There are also medial branch block facet injection options for fast relief. Why be in pain? Call Integrated Pain Consultants at 480-626-2552 today.