Facet syndrome is known as “facet irritation”. We are talking about an inflammation that involves one or more joints of the facet of the back.
The lumbar facet affects joints in the back part of your lumbar spine, your lower back.
The facet joints are located in the posterior part of the vertebrae, behind the discs. The spine can then perform specific angle movements.
They are covered with cartilage, soft and smooth, lubricated by the synovial fluid found in the joint capsules.
We could therefore say that the lumbar facets facilitate the flexibility of the back.
When they are under too much pressure, they can become painful or inflamed and cause pain in the lower back and buttocks, even when sitting for a long time.
Each vertebra is made up of four facets. Two are used to articulate with the upper vertebra and two for the lower joint.
The role of the lumbar facets
- Guiding flexions-extensions
- Stabilize discs and limit rotational movement
- Partially support the weight on the spine
Wear of the lumbar facets can be observed if the height of the intervertebral discs decreases. This can increase the percentage of weight transfer and deformations.
It should be added that in addition to degenerative changes, pain in the facet tissues may appear.
What are the symptoms of lumbar facet syndrome?
Lumbar facet syndrome usually occurs in the segments that make up the lower vertebrae.
These are the busiest segments.
It is also possible to find a symptom of the lumbar facet at the level of the cervical, dorsal or dorso-lumbar hinge.
Here is a list of symptoms of lumbar facet syndrome:
- Tensions on waking
- Discomfort when lying on your stomach
- Pain when you stretch backwards
- Difficulty moving your pelvis
- A feeling that your back is weak
- Difficulty or inability to run
- Muscle cords near inflamed joints
- Back irritation
- A stiffness in the lower back
- Pain in the buttock, thigh and leg
Know that without proper treatment, this condition can develop into a chronic and recurring problem.
What causes lumbar facet syndrome?
Facet syndrome is first favored by an excessively arched lower back (hyperlordosis), weak abdominals or sports that require repeated lumbar extensions (such as gymnastics).
The lumbar facets support some of the weight that is supported by the spine. The load increases proportionally when the intervertebral disc deteriorates.
This overload compromises the regeneration of the articular surfaces as well as their nutrition. They depend on their mobility.
What accentuates lumbar facet syndrome are traumatic stresses, weakening or wear of the intervertebral disc.
The result can be spinal dysfunction synonymous with natural blockage. Joint degeneration will therefore be favored and in some cases will cause pain.
The pain is usually due to the deterioration of the cartilage of the facets and neighboring ligaments. A wrong move could be felt as pain.
Lumbar facet syndrome is a painful reaction that often increases with age.
What causes lumbar facet syndrome?
The pain comes from local irritation and inflammation of one or more facet joints. The nerve may be involved at its exit and create pain that radiates.
Spinal disc injury may also be present.
Facet syndrome is caused by injury to the cartilage of the facet joint, resulting from excessive movement, particularly rotation and extension.
This irritation can be caused by different types of incidents:
- Wrong moves
- Repetitive movements
- Rapid lifting of a load
- A fall or trauma
- Prolonged poor posture
- Repetitive work or activity under adverse conditions
- Increased lumbar lordosis (e.g. pregnant women, overweight people)
How to treat facet syndrome?
There are various ways to help you get through facet syndrome.
Ice can be applied first (20 minutes to 2 hours). Then, rest and complementary therapies including neuro cryotherapy and kinesio taping are always appropriate to reduce inflammation and intense pain.
It will be important, during the healing period, to avoid activities that accentuate the pain, such as hyperextension or rotation of the back.
Once the pain is controlled, spinal manipulations are the most effective treatment for this type of problem. They restore movement and decompress the joint.
Otherwise, it is possible to perform soft tissue work (Active Release Techniques and Graston) and strengthening of the deep musculature of the back with or without ultrasound.
Stretching the associated musculature will also help you treat facet syndrome.
A health professional such as a chiropractor can perform postural correction with you. On a case-by-case basis, weight loss may also be advised.
In order to reduce pain quickly and as needed, it is often advisable to take anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and analgesics.
Otherwise, facet injections may provide some relief, but do not fix the basic problem at the joint. These injections are called “intra-articular facet infiltration” (or facet block).
They aim to reduce inflammation and pain from the facet joint.
However, here are its side effects:
- An increase in pain for a few hours.
- Redness and warmth in the face,
- The menstrual cycle can sometimes be disturbed.
- Blood sugar may be increased in diabetics for a few days
Finally, surgery that consists of fusing two or more vertebrae together is rarely necessary in the case of a facet syndrome.
What is the prognosis associated with facet syndromes?
With the help of manipulations and favorable conditions, one can see a noticeable improvement in 14 days and a remission in 4 to 5 weeks.
On the other hand, if we wait several weeks before the start of treatment, it may be longer and the patient may retain sequelae.
These sequelae will make you feel mild persistent pain, recurrences, back weakness, etc.
WARNING ! If you develop numbness or weakness in the lower extremities or incontinence problems, consult your doctor immediately.
Treat a facet syndrome with a chiropractor at Chiro Ste-Rose
Chiropractors are trained to manipulate the spine and relieve pressure on the facet joints.
Additionally, they may offer exercises and stretches to help strengthen the muscles around the facet joints and improve your joint mobility.
If you feel the same pains as those stated in the article, it is possible that you suffer from facet syndrome.