Facet joint disease

Posted June, 2008

If you've got chronic pain in your neck (called the cervical spine) or other areas of your back, and this pain seems most aggravated by certain specific twisting motions—for example looking up and to the right or left—you may be suffering from facet joint disease. This material provides a very basic primer for what can cause this ailment, and what Robb Pain Management can do to help relieve the pain of Facet Joint Disease (or FJD).

Take a look at the illustration. Move your mouse over the words Facet Joints, below.

You can see the special "sliding surfaces" of the spinal facet joints. These structures allow the spine to twist without "falling apart" and also help interlock the structures of the spinal column together. It's this robust interlocking that makes the columnar structure strong enough to keep your spine intact while you bend, twist, and otherwise use this amazing column of bone, cartilage and muscle.

As important as they may be, these joints rely on a very thin bit of soft tissue to keep them from "scraping" the surface of the bone on the opposing facet. Think of them like your spinal "knuckles" in this regard.

If the lubricant area of the joint gets damaged by the wear and tear of normal living, or by athletic activities, or because of an accident (such as "whiplash" injuries to the cervical spine) a disease process may ensue.This process then causes the myriad of facet joints that makes up the spine to become inflamed. With such inflammation comes pain, stiffness, and possibly muscle spasms. These may then put more pressure on the spinal structure, further degrading its function and adding to the pain.

In severe cases of facet joint disease, soft tissue adhesions develop. This is where the tissue inappropriately grows together, preventing the joint from moving smoothly.

These adhesions can make the joint virtually "lock up," preventing normal motion and adding further to the patient's pain when the sufferer tries to "work around" the painful area's limitations.

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