Facet Joint Dysfunction

Facet joint dysfunction refers to an alteration or malfunction in the normal functioning of the facet joints, which are small joints located in the spinal column. These joints provide stability and support to the vertebrae while allowing limited movement.

Facet joint dysfunction can be caused by various factors, such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, injury, or excessive wear and tear due to aging. This condition can lead to symptoms such as pain, stiffness, muscle spasms, and decreased range of motion.

Some of the technical terms associated with facet joint dysfunction include:

Facet joint osteoarthritis: A degenerative condition in which the cartilage in the facet joints wears down, causing pain and stiffness.

Facet joint syndrome: A term used to describe the pain and other symptoms associated with facet joint dysfunction.

Facet joint injections: A procedure in which a steroid medication is injected into the affected facet joint to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Facet joint nerve block: A procedure in which a local anesthetic is injected into the nerve supplying the facet joint to temporarily relieve pain.

Facet joint arthritis: Inflammation of the facet joints, often due to osteoarthritis.

Facet joint hypertrophy: A condition in which the facet joints become enlarged due to excessive bone growth.

Overall, facet joint dysfunction can greatly impact a person’s quality of life, and prompt evaluation and treatment by a healthcare professional is important to manage the symptoms and prevent further damage to the spine.

Causes of Facet Joint Dysfunction

Facet joint dysfunction can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Osteoarthritis: A degenerative condition in which the cartilage in the joints wears down over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion.

Spinal stenosis: A condition in which the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the nerves and causing pain.

Injury or trauma: Whiplash, falls, and other types of traumas can cause damage to the facet joints and lead to dysfunction.

Aging: Over time, the facet joints can become worn and damaged due to repeated use, leading to dysfunction.

Degenerative disc disease: A condition in which the discs between the vertebrae begin to break down and lose their ability to cushion and absorb shock, putting extra stress on the facet joints.

Spinal instability: A condition in which the spine is unable to maintain its normal alignment, causing excessive stress on the facet joints.

Spinal malalignment: A condition in which the spine is not in its proper position, putting excessive stress on the facet joints.

Herniated disc: A condition in which the inner portion of a spinal disc bulges out and puts pressure on the nerves, leading to pain and other symptoms.

These are some of the technical terms associated with the causes of facet joint dysfunction. It’s important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Signs and Symptoms of Facet Joint Dysfunction

Facet joint dysfunction, also known as facet joint syndrome or zygapophysial joint dysfunction, can cause a variety of signs and symptoms. Some of the technical terms used to describe these symptoms include:

  • Axial low back pain: Pain that is located in the lower back and is related to the movement of the spine.
  • Posterior-lateral spinal pain: Pain that is located on the back and side of the spine.
  • Facet joint tenderness: Pain and sensitivity to pressure on the facet joint.
  • Stiffness: Limited range of motion and flexibility in the affected area of the spine.
  • Radiculopathy: Numbness, tingling, and weakness in the limbs caused by compression of the nerve roots.
  • Paraspinal muscle spasms: Uncontrollable contractions of the muscles that run along the spine.
  • Facet joint hypertrophy: Enlargement of the facet joint due to chronic inflammation or injury.
  • Facet joint osteoarthritis: A degenerative condition of the facet joint caused by the wearing down of the cartilage that cushions the joint.

It’s important to note that these symptoms can be caused by a variety of conditions, not just facet joint dysfunction, so an accurate diagnosis requires a thorough evaluation by a healthcare professional.

Treatment for Facet Joint Dysfunction

Physiotherapy is a common form of treatment for facet joint dysfunction, and it can help to relieve pain, improve mobility, and prevent the condition from worsening.

The following are some of the physiotherapy interventions that may be used to treat facet joint dysfunction:

Exercise: Gentle range of motion exercises, stretching, and strengthening exercises can help to improve flexibility, reduce pain, and prevent muscle wasting.

Manual therapy: This includes techniques such as massage, joint mobilization, and spinal manipulation. These techniques can help to reduce pressure on the facet joints, relieve pain, and improve mobility.

Traction: This involves the use of weights or mechanical devices to gently stretch the spine and reduce pressure on the facet joints.

Heat or cold therapy: Alternating hot and cold therapy can help to reduce pain and swelling and improve mobility.

TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation): This involves the use of low-voltage electrical currents to relieve pain and improve muscle strength.

Exercise modifications: A physiotherapist can help you identify and modify any activities or movements that may be exacerbating your symptoms.

It is important to note that each case of facet joint dysfunction is unique, and the appropriate physiotherapy intervention will depend on the underlying cause of the dysfunction and the severity of the symptoms. A physiotherapist can help to design a personalized treatment plan based on the individual’s needs and goals.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about facet joint dysfunction please call us at 03 9836 1126.

 

Reference:

Li, X., Chen, W., Lu, Y., & Liu, L. (2019). Efficacy of physiotherapy for the treatment of facet joint syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Pain Research

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