If you have been experiencing persistent pain in your back that travels down to the back of your thighs, and prolonged sitting makes the pain worse, you might have facet joint syndrome.
This condition occurs when the cartilage, the protective cover of the facet joints in the spine, becomes inflamed or eroded due to ageing, sports activities, or trauma. Studies have revealed that 15-41% of individuals with chronic back pain suffer from facet joint syndrome.
If you are suffering from unbearable back pain, it is advisable to seek the help of an orthopedic specialist. They can provide an interventional pain management approach to help you recover quickly and get back on your feet.
This article will discuss the painful orthopedic disorder and how to opt for facet joint treatment without surgery to improve its debilitating symptoms. So, without further ado, let’s dive in and understand the non-surgical treatment options discussed below.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Facet Joint Syndrome
Facet joints are tiny spinal fragments that constantly work to provide stability and flexibility while performing certain activities like walking or twisting your neck. The facet joints are surrounded by cartilage that allows them to move smoothly over each other.
It causes pain and discomfort due to joint friction, resulting in tenderness, stiffness, and swelling. Over time, it damages the joints and causes chronic back pain, resulting in the onset of facet joint syndrome.
Upon diagnosing the condition, your orthopaedic specialist will prescribe conservative facet joint pain treatment and management techniques as a first line of defence. Some of the effective options are listed out below.
- Rest and Activity Modification
The best treatment for any orthopaedic disorder is taking ample rest. Frequent breaks from various sports activities can help relax the muscles and reduce inflammation naturally. Performing specific activities can lead to excessive stress on the lower part of your spine.
Therefore it is important to change activities or modify the intensity of the workouts to lower the amount of stress exerted on your lower back muscles.
For instance, if you attempt to lift a heavy object from the ground or have poor posture throughout the day, it channels the excess stress or pressure to your lumbar spine. Therefore, bracing aids and other adjustable posture devices will help you maintain a neutral posture, relieving the troubled joint.
- Physical Therapy
The pain from facet joint syndrome can be managed by individualized physical therapy. Stretching and strengthening exercises can help manage pain and focus on restoring muscular endurance and range of motion. Even though it’s a great way to strengthen your spinal structures and prepare you to handle the stress, you should follow certain instructions to avoid overloading your spine.
A professional therapist will plan a personalized approach with low-impact stretches and exercise. Rather than running, activities like swilling, elliptical, and walking help you improve your flexibility without increasing the pressure on the spinal structure.
- Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Anti-inflammatory medications are generally combined with other conservative treatments for facet joint syndrome, like physical therapy and rest, to complement the results. Inflammation makes the condition more uncomfortable.
Your physician will generally prescribe NSAIDs (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) like Naproxen and Ibuprofen to reduce the swelling and pain caused by the facet joint syndrome.
However, medications aren’t a long-term solution and might also cause adverse effects when taken for a long time and with a heavy dose. Hence, make sure to follow physicians’ instructions while taking medicine. In a nutshell, anti-inflammatory drugs are an excellent way to alleviate pain while working toward permanent relief.
- Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural steroid injection is one of the target-based treatments for facet joint syndrome that relieves pain and inflammation in the localized area. It is used to manage pain in the spine and radiates to other parts, such as the arm, back, and leg. It is highly recommended when pain occurs due to the inflammation of a specific nerve or tissue.
Even though it acts as an integral part of the comprehensive plan, the effects of the injection might wear off after a few weeks or a couple of months. You may opt for two repeated injections within six months. Some commonly encountered adverse effects are temporary pain, infection, bleeding, and nerve damage.
- Chiropractic Care
A chiropractic professional will diagnose your facet syndrome and ease the pain while addressing the condition’s root cause. In most cases, facet pain occurs due to issues in the alignment of the spine vertebrae. Therefore, chiropractic care focuses on correcting the alignment and helping you overcome the pain.
The chiropractor will implement a series of controlled and gentle thrusts to arrange the vertebrae in the spine properly. It will not only resolve the problem but also prevent the risk of recurrence.
- Massage Therapy
Facet joints are located close to the nerves extending out from the spinal cord, which are called nerve roots. These nerve roots might induce pain when the joints are injured and inflamed. Remedial massage therapy will help the muscles around the affected joint relax, not increasing the pain.
The professional therapist applies gentle stretches to improve mobility and lessen the pain via nerve roots. It also increases blood circulation to the injured area and reduces stress levels, ultimately helping you manage the syndrome effectively over time.
Acupuncture is another non-surgical approach to treating facet joints by needling the area to change the signalling of the nerves. It also stimulates the relaxation effect in muscles to decrease inflammation and pain. The system can target specific areas with the pain while also addressing the overall symmetry of the human system.
Research shows that when combined with massage therapy, acupuncture is a great way to speed up the healing process naturally by targeting the dysfunctioning joints. It also aids in identifying the underlying cause that might contribute to the condition by relieving the inflammation, reducing the tension, and promoting the healthy alignment and overall balance of the spinal structures.
Facet joint syndrome might cause excruciating pain, making your life challenging in various aspects and even preventing you from accomplishing simple and routine activities. Moreover, the condition has a very generic symptom, making it challenging to identify the condition at the early stage and often overlooked as usual back pain.
Hence, consult with your healthcare professional if you experience chronic back pain. A constructive and proper facet joint syndrome treatment begins with an early and holistic diagnosis. The healthcare professionals will implement an interdisciplinary approach in addressing the source of your pain and meet your specific requirements, helping to get you back on the healthy track.