Lumbar Facet Syndrome

Lots of people have low back pain.  Have you ever noticed that pain doesn’t always stay put.  Often times and particularly with back pain it’s not as if you can point to it and say the pain is all right there, sometimes it wanders.  At times it’s your whole side, or going down into your buttock, or even down the leg.  Distributed pain like this is usually one of two things referred pain (like when someone has a heart attack and grabs their shoulder because it hurts) or neurological pain.  Neurological pain is pain that follows nerve paths.  A big nerve actually comes from or goes to a different part of the body.  When injured, the signal of pain to the brain may be interpreted as a different part of the body than is actually injured.

It just so happens that our facet joints on the back of our spine sit right by very large nerve bundles called nerve roots.  In our low back (lumbar spine) these nerves go to our low back and legs but they also go to our facets.  So when we injure our facets the injury may register in our mind as low back or leg pain.

These facets may be injured in many ways.  There could be a sprain of the joint or surrounding ligaments, the same as an ankle sprain only smaller.  There could be a portion of the soft tissue entrapped in the joint and being pinched.  It could be degeneration of the joint caused by disease, chronic subluxation or joint dysfunction. The point is it’s not always easy to know the exact cause, but that doesn’t make you feel any better.

People who have facet syndrome will often be leaning forward or trying to stretch the area.  They won’t like bending backwards.  The pain may be very local, They will often point to the facet joint and say it starts right here, even though the pain may go as far as the knee.

The great news about facet syndrome is that it responds very well to chiropractic manipulation.  See your chiropractor if you think you may have facet syndrome.  If you can’t get to your chiropractor right away there are some things that you can do on your own, and you were probably already doing them.  Bending forward will help take pressure of the facet.  Ice will help reduce any inflamation, and taking it easy for a while will help you to avoid agravating it.  Stretching and massage can also help relax the muscles around the joint taking even more pressure off.  When you do see your chiropractor, he will diagnose you and, may use spinal traction, e-stim, or even ultrasound along with an adjustment.  Don’t worry, your chances of recovery from facet syndrome are great.

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