Facet joints are created by small bony projections from the spinal bones or vertebrae. The vertebra above sends it’s projections down and the vertebra below sends it’s up. Each of the projections is covered in cartilage and they unite to form the facet joints. There are two facet joints at each spinal level, on the right and left and towards the rear of the vertebrae.
Conditions affecting facet joints include;
1. Stiff, locked, subluxed or “out of alignment”.
These terms are often used to describe facet joints that are generally healthy but for some reason have become stiff and painful.
2. Degenerative change or arthritis. See Degenerative change & Arthritis for more information.
Cause: Stiff and painful facet joints may occur due to sleeping with the incorrect pillow, a trauma such as a fall or car accident or a collison playing sport. Often stiffness builds up over time due to normal daily activity.
Symptoms: When mild, you may not even know that the facet joints in your neck are stiff, except perhaps when you’re doing a head check or reversing when driving. Generally, patients with facet joint problems have pain largely confined to the neck but it may spread slightly to the shoulder region including the inside of the shoulder blade.
Treatment: A thorough assessment will reveal the restricted movements and painful joints. Using the McKenzie Method, the movement that “unlocks” the joint will be identified and used in your treatment. Acupuncture is also very effective at eliminating the muscle spasm surrounding the joint.
Significant improvement should be noticed within 1 -3 treatments.