Lumbar Facet Joint Pain


Lumbar Facet Joint Pain Patterns

Is your back pain arising from the joints of the spine?

A joint is a joint is a joint! All over the body joints behave in the same way. They will do the job they were designed for but can struggle to cope with extra work and the lumbar joints or lumbar facet joints as they are often called are no different. Spinal joints don't like being asked to take over the weight bearing function of a soft and damaged disc. If this happens then they show signs of wear on X-rays and can become painful.

The linings of the lumbar facet joints have a rich nerve supply. These nerves can send pain signals to the brain but don't when the low back joint is healthy because they sit deep in the lining and are cushioned by it.

It's only when the facet joint lining wears away in places that the nerves are irritated enough to trigger pain signals. These pain signals are felt from one side of the lower back


The linings of the lumbar facet joints have a rich nerve supply. These nerves can send pain signals to the brain but don't when the low back joint is healthy because they sit deep in the lining and are cushioned by it. It's only when the facet joint lining wears away in places that the nerves are irritated enough to trigger pain signals.

The facet joints of the lower back are designed like the other synovial joints of the body and behave in the same way. At first pain only comes during movement or at the end of a long day when a lot of strain has been taken by the joint. If things get worse then the lumbar facet joint hurts all the time.

Ongoing low back pain like this can sometimes be helped by facet joint injections or by operations designed to kill the nerves that supply the facet joint. Common sense tells us that only bits of the body with a nerve supply can send pain messages to the brain and one way to stop the pain is to cut the nerves and stop the pain signals getting there in the first place.

If this sounds like your kind of lower back pain then don't despair. There are many options open to you in your search for pain relief. 


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Rule One:

Take the load off your lower back!

Start by taking strain off the lower spine and follow these simple rules:

•  make sure you are not carrying excess body weight

•  seek the advice of a physiotherapist or an other manual therapist about your posture. A poor posture puts a lot more stress on the facet joints of the lower spine and will speed up the wear and tear process.

•  work to develop good tone and strength in the abdominal and spinal muscles. Working on the leg muscles can slow down osteoarthritis in the hip and knee and working hard on the lumbar muscles which support the lower back will do the same for it.

•  stay fit - there is no doubt that maintaining a good level of general fitness keeps the facet joints of the spine healthy and pain free. Exercises such as swimming and cycling which can be done without putting a strain on the back are excellent for this.

 

It's not only older people who get joint trouble. Look at the above diagram showing the spinal joints and how they sit in relation to the discs of the lumbar spine. The diagram is not big enough or detailed enough to show it clearly but each lower back facet joint has a little folds of tissue which comes into the facet joints at the top and bottom. These seem to be present in all the joints of the spine although they are bigger in the neck than they are in the lower back.

 

What is a "locked back"?

If a movement of the lower back lets one of these little folds get nipped between the two bones then the nerves in the fold immediately send a pain signal to the brain. The spinal cord also acts on this sudden pain and tries to stop it getting any worse. It does this by making the big muscles around the facet joint go into spasm. This is probably how a "locked back" happens.

It also seems likely that simple bending forward movements - especially if combined with twisting - can result in the fold getting stuck outside the joint. It becomes wedged under the capsule and again sends a very strong pain signal. It seems to be this type of back pain which responds very dramatically to spinal manipulation. We think that manipulation of the back works by allowing the little fold of tissue to return to its normal position and so stops the nerves sending the pain signals.

 





Page Links for lower back pain pages

Lower back pain 
Back pain causes 
Back pain down the leg
The joints of the spine and the sacroiliac joint
Back pain, disc pain and disc degeneration
Lumbar facet joint pain - lower back pain and the lumbar facet joints 
What is Lower Back Pain - Why does your back hurt?
The Pain Gate and why your lower back pain hurts so much
Lower Back Pain Treatment and Referred Pain 
First aid treatment measures for a low back pain attack 
Spinal Manipulation treatment- some truths and myths about spinal manipulation treatment 
Acupuncture treatment for lower back pain 

Back Pain Treatment  

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Doctor Cameron also provides online information about other joint pain topics including shoulder pain, frozen shoulder and about how joint injections can help to treat pain or stiffness. If you browse around his other sites you will find lots of related health information - much of it also dealing with joint pain, muscle pain and sports injury.