Back injuries are super common in the population, at least 80% of people will have an episode of back pain in their lifetime. Most people have heard of or know of someone who has damaged their disc, but a more commonly seen injury is that of the facet joint sprain.
The facets are not in the central section of our vertebrae but extend laterally, and they are connected to the vertebra above/below them via ligaments. These facets joints are located through all of your neck, middle and lower back.
Why is my facet joint sore?
- Facet joints often become irritated by hypomobility – or lack of movement of the joint, causing stiffness and soreness.
- Alternatively, it can be from hypermobility – or moving the joint beyond its normal range, try to think of this similar to an ankle sprain, the joint and ligaments have over stretched.
- Commonly lower back sprains can be from activities such as shoveling, incorrect lifting and/or moving techniques.
- Common neck sprains can be from sleeping in unusual positions, associated with long periods of sitting at a desk without changing position.
- Acute facet sprains can cause some strong pain at both the site of injury and occasionally can refer elsewhere, good examples of this are headaches resulting from a cervical facet sprain, or gluteal pain from a lumbar (lower back) sprain. Acute flare ups are often caused by excessive rotation and extension, especially if there’s any added weight to the motion.
- Chronic facet sprains can occur in multiple ways, often aggravated by prolonged static posture, whether it be sitting or standing. The pain can go across the spine or be focal on one side, a thorough assessment from one of our osteopaths will be able to locate which joint and try to identify the factors causing the aggravation.
- Often severe facet sprains will be associated with muscle spasm, this is the body’s reaction to protect the joint from further aggravation, this itself can provide increased pain and stiffness.
How long does it take to heal a facet joint?
As with any injuries healing times can change depending on numerous factors, such as age, weight, work and ability to avoid/manage aggravating activities.
But typically, an acute sprain can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks if managed and treated correctly. These sprains can become ongoing and chronic if you continue to aggravate the joint, this can then take 6-12 weeks, with a high occurrence of re-injuring and flare ups in the future. For this reason, it is important to get your back pain seen to, so together we can develop a plan to get you on the right track.
What does treatment involve?
Firstly, one of our osteopaths will go through a thorough case history and orthopedic examination to find out what tissue and segment is causing the pain and discomfort. Once a working diagnosis has been established treatment will depend on the individual, treatment can include but not limited to
- Soft tissue therapy
- Joint mobilisation
- Exercise Prescription
- Dry needling
- Education on why this has occurred and how to prevent further occurrence
- Helping you return to normal activities
What should I do if I hurt back?
If the pain is thought to be a facet sprain icing the joint to help relieve the pain is beneficial, Ice for no longer than 20 minutes, and make sure you have a cloth or tea towel between the ice pack and your skin to avoid cold burn.
Book an appointment with one of our fantastic osteopaths for assessment and treatment.
Dr Cameron Bayliss