Facet arthritis and lower back pain

Facet arthritis could lead to acute lower back pain. But lower back pain is one of the most difficult conditions to diagnose. So, how can you assess whether your lower back pain is due to facet arthritis? Read on to find out.

What are facet joints?

Facet joints link the bones of the vertebra together, and these joints lie closest to the skin of the back. These joints move every time you twist your back or move your head, neck or trunk.

Facet joints are in charge of controlling the movement of the spine. These joints also guide and protect the discs. Thus they keep the segments of the vertebra aligned together.

What causes facet arthritis?

Since the facet joints control the movement of the body, these joints are under a lot of mechanical stress. This is only natural because the spine of an adult is exposed to a lot of repetitive trauma, which in turn leads to wear and tear.

To facilitate smooth movement, these joints are covered with cartilage that lubricates the motion. Typically, the facet joints fit over each other snugly and glide smoothly, like the parts of a well oiled engine.

But, due to repetitive motion, the cartilage gets battered over a period of time. Soon, tears and abrasions in the cartilage lead to inflammation, leading to facet arthritis.

Joints that have sustained an injury in the past may also become inflamed in the future due to irregularities in movement, which puts extra stress on the joints.

To counterbalance the extra stress, the body develops bony spurs, which in turn cause inflammation and pain.

In the final count, it is not known what exactly causes arthritis in these joints, although certain morphological and structural conditions can make people vulnerable to joint instability.

Could you be suffering from facet arthritis?

Symptoms to watch out for:

  • Severe lower back pain is the most common and telling symptom. But, if the pain is caused by this arthritic condition, then, the pain will be worse when you get up just after resting.
  • Lower back pain that becomes more intense when the sufferer bends or twists the body is indicative of arthritic facet joints
  • Early morning stiffness and pain may get regularized as the patient participates in normal activities, but the condition may worsen as the back is exposed to repetitive stress throughout the day.
  • Pain that is felt at the center of the back and spreads to the buttocks or thighs could also indicate this condition.
  • Some kinds of back pain lead to numbness and loss of feeling in the back. This is not associated with arthritic facet joints, unless there are spurs in the joints.

While these are the typical symptoms of arthritic facet joints, it is important to know that a good number of patients may never experience symptoms at all. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor in order to confirm facet arthritis.

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