Facet Joint Osteoarthritis
What is Facet Joint Osteoarthritis?
The boney knobs that you can feel running down your spine are part of the vertebrae and are called the “spinous process.”
On either side of each spinous process, there is a facet joint that connects each vertebra together to form the spine.
These facet joints are lined with a smooth, rubbery layer of cartilage, separating the vertebra and allowing their movements to be smooth and painless.
Facet joint osteoarthritis (OA) is a type of spinal osteoarthritis that occurs when that layer of cartilage breaks down and wears away, causing bone to rub on bone.
In more severe cases, painful bone spurs called osteophytes can form in the place of cartilage.
Facet joint OA is a common cause of back pain. It may develop on its own, or in conjunction with other degenerative conditions in the spine, such as degenerative disc disease and/or spinal stenosis.
What Causes Facet Joint Osteoarthritis?
It is not known what causes arthritis, but there are certain risk factors to be aware of that can lead to arthritis:
- Family history
- Increasing age
- Gender – women are more likely to develop osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, while men are more likely to develop gout
- Obesity or being overweight
- Previous injury to a joint
- Repetitive strain to a joint
- Sedentary lifestyle
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Facet Joint Osteoarthritis?
Common symptoms of arthritis usually involve the joints, and include:
- Stiffness, especially in the morning or after resting
- Restricted range of motion
Concerned about symptoms of facet joint osteoarthritis? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.
How is Facet Joint Osteoarthritis Treated?
Treatments for facet joint OA typically include medications, physiotherapy, and surgery, though surgery should be considered only as a last resort, and many drugs carry serious side effects.
Treatments for facet joint OA include:
- Glucosamine supplement, which is found naturally in the fluid around the joints and is critical to building cartilage
- Medications, including:
- Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Topical medications such as creams, sprays, gels or patches
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), though these drugs can have serious side effects
- Steroid injections (to reduce swelling) or hyaluronic acid injections (to provide lubrication for the facet joint), though these cannot be continued for a long period of time
- Surgery – if surgery is necessary after other less invasive treatments have not helped, physiotherapy is an important part of rehabilitation
Physiotherapy for Facet Joint Osteoarthritis
Physiotherapy is a drug-free and non-surgical treatment that has been proven to reduce arthritis pain.
The goal of physiotherapy for facet joint OA is to prevent the progression of the disease, reduce pain, regain strength, and increase joint mobility, function, and quality of life.
Depending on your individual needs, physiotherapy for facet joint OA can include:
- Stretching, strengthening, and range of motion exercises
- Stability and endurance exercises
- Activity modification and functional retraining
- Orthotics to add support and absorb the shock from your regular activities
- Patient education so you feel in control of your condition including relaxation and coping strategies
- Postural and ergonomic education
- Cross-disciplinary pain-relieving therapies such as:
Are you seeking physiotherapy for facet joint arthritis treatment? Book an assessment today.
Can Facet Joint Osteoarthritis Go Away On Its Own?
Unfortunately, no. There is no cure for facet joint OA, but with proper treatment, the disease can be managed effectively and progression stopped or delayed.
If you have facet joint OA, there are things you can do to make daily living easier, including:
- Minimizing activities that put stress on your low back, like bending and lifting, or carrying heavy things
- Switching from high-intensity activities like jogging, to low-intensity activities like walking
- Using a properly supportive pillow and mattress
- Wearing a back or neck brace
- Using an ergonomic chair at work and home
- Applying heat and cold therapy
Can You Prevent Facet Joint Osteoarthritis?
There are many things you can do to prevent or reduce the chance of developing facet joint OA, including:
- Exercising regularly, including stretching exercises such as yoga or tai chi (at least 30 minutes every day)
- Eating a non-inflammatory diet (avoiding processed and refined foods and sugar)
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Practicing good posture
Book a Physiotherapist Consult for Facet Joint Osteoarthritis Today
Concerned about symptoms of facet joint OA? Book an assessment with a physiotherapist today.