A facet joint sprain is a very common cause of low back pain. The facet joints are synovial joints that are between the vertebrae of the spine. There are two facet joints (right and left) in each spinal motion segment. The role of the facet joint is to help guide and limit movement of the spine.
Causes of facet joint injury?
Facet joint pain can either be of sudden or gradual onset. Typically patients will notice either an increase in loading or change within their normal daily activities in the lead up to onset of pain. Occasionally they will note an incident where movement has exceeded their usual level of control such as an awkward twisting or sudden jarring which precedes pain. Most cases of facet joint sprain will lead to hypomobility (decrease in motion) of the joint.
Those who present with facet joint pain typically have unilateral pain ie either right or left sided pain. It my be worsened with compression of the irritable joint i.e right sided facet joint injury will be worsened with compression to the right, though facet joints can also be aggravated with opening or flexion motions. Occasionally, there is a somatic referral pattern down the legs, meaning the brain is interpreting jumbled signals to create the leg pain, rather than any serious or significant nerve injury.
Treatment of facet joint pain will include manual therapy to the stiff joint. Adjuncts to manual therapy may include heat therapy, gentle stretches, strengthening exercises and soft tissue release. Depending on the severity of the pain, many are able to continue to some form of exercise and complete their usual activities of daily living. However, this is something that can be discussed with your treating physiotherapist to ensure that you are allowing yourself time to recover. Getting you moving as soon as possible is the highest priority. Reme,mber, a facet joint strain is rarely a long term issue, and they settle well within a few weeks.
To make a booking to see your local Melbourne sports physiotherapist for treatment of your strain lower back facet joint, please call your local clinic or book online.