Let’s face it, few of us are strangers to back pain — up to 80% of people experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. One of the more common drivers of low back pain is facet joint syndrome, which accounts for between 15% and 41% of chronic low back pain.
If you’re experiencing chronic discomfort in your lower back and want to start narrowing down the pool of potential suspects, here’s some information on facet joint syndrome, including key signs.
Your spine features 33 vertebrae stacked on top of each other from your pelvis up to the base of your skull. There are two facet joints at each level of the vertebral column to support your spine and allow movement between the bones.
Facet joints are located all along your spine. They are in near constant motion, which puts them at greater risk for degenerative processes (arthritis) that we categorize under facet joint syndrome. With facet joint issues, the protective cartilage can wear out around the joints, allowing the bones in your spine to rub together. This breakdown in the facet joints can lead to the growth of bone spurs, which can add to the discomfort in your back.
As you can imagine, facet joint syndrome is more common as you age. The wear-and-tear in your facet joints causes pain and inflammation, especially in areas that enjoy the most movement, like your lower back.
As we mentioned, lower back pain has many potential causes, and the symptoms can often cross over. That said, here are the top characteristics of facet joint syndrome:
Of course, pain is the first indicator of a problem, which is true of facet joint syndrome. The nerve roots that exit your spine pass through your facet joints so that the pain can be localized or symptoms can travel down the nerve fibers.
For example, when you have facet joint arthritis in your lower back, you can feel a dull ache in your lower back and pain that radiates down into one side of your buttocks and into your leg.
As with degenerative forms of arthritis in other areas of your body, stiffness is a common complaint. This stiffness is caused by inflammation around your facet joints, making movement in your lower back more difficult.
This stiffness often occurs after long periods of inactivity, such as when you sleep or if you’ve been sitting for a while. Once you start moving again, the stiffness in your lower back should slowly fade.
With wear-and-tear arthritis in your facet joints, loose bodies in the joints can lead to a feeling of grinding and popping in your lower back. Crepitus can be both a sensation and a sound, which means you can hear the grinding and grating in your joints.
The best way to determine whether facet joint syndrome is causing your lower back pain is to come to see us. As spine health experts, we can quickly diagnose your lower back pain and figure out the best approach for helping you regain pain-free movement.
To get started, simply contact our Jonesboro, Georgia, office to schedule an appointment.