FACET JOINT SYNDROME
Avoid chronic whiplash pain with Medical Massage
Facet joint syndrome, also known as facet joint arthropathy or facet joint osteoarthritis, is a condition that affects the facet joints in the spine. The facet joints are small, paired joints located at each vertebral level, which connect adjacent vertebrae and allow for spinal motion, such as bending and twisting. These joints are lined with cartilage and surrounded by a thin layer of synovial fluid, usually allowing for smooth movement in a healthy joint.
Facet joint syndrome can severely compromise the health of your spine. It can often result from injuries sustained during a whiplash. Whiplash is a type of neck injury that occurs when the head is forcefully and rapidly jerked back and forth, often as a result of a rear-end car collision or other high-impact events. This sudden movement can cause stretching, tearing, or compression of the soft tissues, ligaments, and facet joints in the neck.
The effects of this often may not be felt immediately post accident, but if a facet joint is injured, the resulting low level inflammation can cause an inflammatory cascade to spread to the close neighboring neural tissue- and these nerves can create a self sustaining inflammatory loop that drives joint degeneration and osteoarthritis, continuing even years after the initial injury. Gradually as the cartilage degenerates due to inflammation, the bones in the joint may rub against each other, causing even further pain, inflammation and stiffness and may contribute to recurring headaches and neck pain.
Symptoms of facet joint syndrome may include:
- Localized back or neck pain, often aggravated by certain movements or positions.
- Stiffness and reduced range of motion in the affected area of the spine.
- Pain that radiates to the shoulders, arms, hips, or legs, depending on the location of the affected facet joint.
- Increased pain when extending the spine or standing for prolonged periods.
- Muscle spasms or tenderness near the affected joint.
Early Treatment, Better Outcomes for neck pain
Medical massage can be helpful in mitigating the negative outcomes of facet joint syndrome when performed early post-injury. These treatments aim to:
- Reduce pain and inflammation: Gentle massage techniques can help to alleviate muscle tension, promote blood circulation, and reduce inflammation around the affected facet joints- leading to better healing outcomes and inflammation resolution instead of chronic inflammatory loops.
- Restore range of motion: Manual therapy, including joint mobilization, can help to improve the range of motion in the neck and alleviate stiffness associated with facet joint syndrome.
- Strengthen supporting muscles: Therapeutic exercises can help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the affected facet joints, providing additional support and stability to the spine.
- Promote tissue healing: Massage and manual therapy can stimulate the body’s natural healing processes, aiding in the repair of damaged tissues and the restoration of normal joint function.
While medical massage and manual therapy can be beneficial in managing facet joint syndrome following a whiplash injury, we find that it is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any treatment plan. They can assess the severity of the injury and recommend the most appropriate course of action based on the individual’s specific needs and circumstances.
Keep in mind that these treatments may may not be a permanent solution for all cases. In more severe cases or if conservative treatments fail to provide adequate relief, additional interventions, such as injections or surgery, may be necessary. We work together with our skilled referral partners to help you understand your condition and help you move forward with a strong grasp of your options.