What is Lumbar Facet Syndrome?
Lumbar facet syndrome is a relatively common cause of low back pain that originates from the posterior joints of the lumbar vertebra. Where the posterior (or back sides) of the vertebra form joints are called the facet (or zygapophyseal) joints. Facet syndrome is when these joints become irritated and inflamed, leading to irritation of the surrounding joint capsules and nerves.
What Does Lumbar Facet Syndrome Feel Like?
Facet syndrome pain can vary from mild to severe, and often is worst with lumbar extension (leaning back) or twisting. Many patients will describe the pain as a dull ache until they lean back or twist – where it then can feel like a sharp stab. The pain is more localized compared to pain coming from a disc. However, the pain can still radiate from the back into the glutes or upper thigh in the back. Patients will have more pain with prolonged standing or after walking for a while, as this puts more compression on the irritated facet joints. These joints may also be extra sensitive after resting for a while (since they’ve been allowed to “stiffen up”). These patients can often (though not always) find some relief once they sit or bend forward to take pressure of the joints. Laying down with the knees bent or taking short walks may also relieve the pain. The muscles around the inflamed facet joints are often tender as well – leading many to believe they “pulled a muscle.”
What Causes Lumbar Facet Syndrome?
Facet syndrome is often caused by repetitive microtraumas to the facet joints and surrounding joint capsules. These microtraumas can come from everyday activities, especially those that involve repetitive lumbar extension (leaning back). Degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease (with their associated bone spur formation and arthritis) can also lead to facet syndrome. Occasionally, more acute causes like car accidents or being tackled in sports can cause facet syndrome too.
Chiropractic Helps Relieve Lumbar Facet Syndrome
Chiropractors are experts in diagnosing and treating lumbar facet syndrome. Chiropractic adjustments are effective in decreasing the pain and muscle spasms associated with facet syndrome while normalizing the affected joint’s range of motion. Depending on the patient’s case, your chiropractor may utilize other modalities such as heat or E-stim to help relieve the pain. Chiropractors can also show their patients which activities/movements to avoid and which stretches/activities will speed up the recovery.