Medical treatment for facet joint pain
During the initial facet joint pain attack, manipulations by a trained chiropractor or osteopath may help to ease the pain and relax the muscle spasms that occur as a result. Getting your back straight again will go a long way to reducing the severity and duration of the episode.
A physiotherapist may also be useful, both to train you in the best way to cope with an attack, and to give you exercises to help reduce their frequency.
Surgery for facet joint pain
The sack of fluid around the facet joint holds many small nerve endings to enable the body to monitor the joint. In severe cases of facet joint pain, surgery is used to kill off some of these nerves and so reduce the pain. This procedure is called facet rhizotomy and can be done by either freezing the nerves or cauterising them with heat.
However, this is a very delicate operation, which takes place very close to vital nerves and the spinal cord, and so it will only be recommended once all the avenues discussed above have been explored.
In extreme cases, where the joint has seriously degenerated, the two adjacent vertebrae may be fused, but this is generally only used as a last resort, where the problem is severely restricting a person’s normal lifestyle.
Living with facet joint pain
For most people, facet joint pain can be reduced to a level they can live with, or eliminated altogether by a combination of the self treatment procedures described above.
Of these, perhaps the most important is keeping healthy and active, as this will not only reduce the impact of facet joint pain, but will also help keep your weight down so that the pressure on your back is minimised.