If you've ever had that one-sided sharp, catching pain in your neck or back that stops you moving even slightly towards that painful side, you've likely experienced a sprained facet joint.
Facet joint sprains can be a source of intense back or neck pain, limiting our mobility and overall quality of life. This kind of injury is usually fairly short lived, but the first few days when its at its worst can be very highly sensitive and irritable. The acute phase usually doesn't last more than a week, and the pain usually subsides entirely within 2-3 weeks.
These injuries can result from trauma (like a car accident), repetitive motions or rapid combination movements (like bending/twisting/lifting too quickly), or can be predisposed in degenerative conditions where the joint has been previously injured or where the joint isn't as healthy as it could be. Even though this condition is normally short-lived, it can be challenging to manage and exceptionally painful.
Facet joints are small joints located at the back of the spine, connecting the vertebrae. When they are happy they provide stability and allow for easy non-painful movement in the spine. When these joints become injured or strained, it can be a very painful experience. Turning your head to the impacted side is usually very restricted by a sharp, bony pain. Often turning to the opposite side is much easier and without the same sting of instant pain.
Common causes include sudden trauma or whiplash type injuries, quick repetitive motions, or lifting and twisting at the same time. We'll often hear people say "I slept funny and now I can't turn my neck that way", this can be from sleeping in a weird or awkward position with the neck jammed up overnight.
Symptoms of facet joint sprains include localised pain which is usually one sided, stiffness, reduced range of motion due to intense pain, and muscle spasms. The muscles around the impacted facet joint can go into a protective spasm to prevent you from moving, but the spasm itself can be very painful and can cause referral of pain to other areas. If the sprained facet joint is in your neck, its common to get a headache referred from the surrounding muscles. If the sprained facet is in your back, the referral patterns from an upper back facet is usually to the shoulders, or from a lower back facet to your hips.
These sprains can significantly impact daily activities, especially things that need you to be able to move easily and safely, like doing headchecks in the car, getting in and out of bed, or going to the gym.
When it comes to facet joint sprains, our myotherapists offer several benefits:
Pain Relief: Myotherapists utilise a range of techniques, including deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, and joint mobilisation, to alleviate pain associated with facet joint sprains. By targeting the affected area and surrounding muscles, our myotherapists help reduce muscle tension, release endorphins, and improve blood circulation, resulting in pain relief. Techniques that can be used in acute stages include things like dry needling which can resolve muscle spasm without applying broad pressure over the area.
Muscle Relaxation and Joint Mobility: Facet joint sprains often lead to muscle spasms and restricted joint mobility. Myotherapy techniques such as gentle stretching, soft tissue mobilisation, and joint mobilisation help relax the muscles, increase flexibility, and restore normal joint motion. These interventions promote healing, reduce inflammation, and enhance overall range of motion. Gentle mobilisations encourage the correct glide of the facet joints to return, and using techniques like Muscle Energy Technique we can often reduce the protective spasm and improve the amount of movement and the irritability of the joint fairly quickly.
Muscle Imbalance: Musculoskeletal imbalances can contribute to facet joint sprains. Myotherapists assess and correct muscle imbalances through targeted exercises, ergonomic modifications, and postural retraining. By addressing these underlying issues, your myotherapist helps improve your alignment, reduce stress on the facet joints, and prevent further injury.
Strength and Stability: Myotherapy focuses not only on treating the immediate pain but also on building strength and stability to prevent future sprains, once the pain intensity allows us to do so. Myotherapists develop customised exercise programs to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, enhancing overall spinal stability and reducing the risk of recurrent facet joint sprains. For a facet joint sprain, we usually expect this part of your treatment plan to begin about 2 weeks into your program, once the pain has settled and you have regained mobility.
Education and Self-Care: Myotherapists play an essential role in educating our patients about facet joint sprains and self-care techniques. We provide guidance on proper body mechanics, ergonomics, and exercises to maintain a healthy spine and prevent further injuries. Empowering individuals with the knowledge to take control of their own well-being is a fundamental aspect of myotherapy.
Facet joint sprains can significantly impact our daily lives, causing pain and limiting our mobility. Myotherapy offers a comprehensive approach to treating facet joint sprains by addressing pain, muscle tension, joint mobility, and underlying imbalances. Through techniques such as pain relief, muscle relaxation, joint movement correction, and strength training, myotherapy aims to provide lasting relief and prevent future sprains. If you're struggling with facet joint sprains, seeking the expertise of our qualified myotherapists can be a valuable step towards finding relief and regaining functionality.
Book online with any of our great Myos, or call us on 03 8204 0970 for more information.
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