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Acupuncture for
Facet Joint Dysfunction

Facet Joint Pain: Symptoms and Treatment Options

Elias Lu, DTCM,

Acupuncture Physician

Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine in St. Pete, Florida

Facet joint pain, also known as facet syndrome or facet joint syndrome, is a common cause of back pain.

 

Facet Joints

Facet (zygapophyseal) joints are small joints situated on the back of the spine, richly supplied with nerves and blood vessels. Each vertebra in the spine possesses two facet joints, one on each side, linking it to the adjacent vertebrae.

Spine X-Ray

These joints play a crucial role in providing stability and facilitating movement of the spine. However, when they become inflamed due to injury or wear and tear, they can cause significant discomfort with every movement.

 

Facet Joint Pain

Common symptoms indicating facet joint issues include:

 

1. Back pain or neck pain, often worsened by certain movements such as bending backward or twisting.

2. Stiffness and reduced range of motion in the spine.

3. Radiating pain that may travel into the extremities.

4. Muscle spasms in the surrounding muscles.

 

Diagnosis of Facet Joint Pain

Diagnosing facet joint pain begins with a comprehensive medical history and physical examination. Diagnostic tests such as X-rays or MRI scans may be ordered to visualize the facet joints and identify any abnormalities or signs of degeneration. Decreased pain after a facet joint injection (see below) helps confirm the diagnosis of facet joint arthropathy.

 

Treatment Options for Facet Joint Pain

The goal of treatment for facet joint pain is to alleviate pain, improve mobility, and restore function. Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatment options may include:

 

  • Medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and or muscle relaxants) to help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.

  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine and improve flexibility.

  • Facet joint injections of corticosteroids to provide temporary pain relief by reducing inflammation.

  • Radiofrequency ablation to disrupt the nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals from the facet joints to the brain.

  • Surgery may be considered for severe cases or when conservative treatments have failed.

Acupuncture Pain Relief

Acupuncture needles are usually inserted alongside the spine with the goal of stimulating the spinal nerves, relaxing the axial muscles, and improving blood circulation to the spine segment. A brief 15 to 20-minute acupuncture session can provide sufficient pain relief to postpone or even completely avoid more invasive therapeutic interventions.

References

Legge D. (2015). Acupuncture Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain by Using the Jingjin (Meridian Sinews) Model. Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies, 8(5), 255–258. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jams.2015.07.013

 

Perolat, R., Kastler, A., Nicot, B., Pellat, J. M., Tahon, F., Attye, A., Heck, O., Boubagra, K., Grand, S., & Krainik, A. (2018). Facet joint syndrome: from diagnosis to interventional management. Insights into imaging, 9(5), 773–789. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13244-018-0638-x

doctor's picture

Dr. Elias Lu, DTCM is an acupuncture physician with Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine. In practice for over 25 years, he integrates traditional Chinese medicine with modern functional therapies to help people with chronic pain, trauma, neurodegenerative disorders, anxiety, depression, and many other life's challenges.

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