Facet joints are small stabilizing joints located at every spinal level. A sudden excessive movement can traumatize a facet joint and cause an inflammatory reaction with swelling and pain in the joint. Staying in a prolonged end of range position can also put pressure on the capsule of the facet joint causing pain and inflammation. Facet joint pain typically occurs during excessive lifting, bending, slouching, or twisting movements of the neck. It may also occur during sleeping particularly in poor postures.
With chronic facet joint pain it is possible an accumulation of mild trauma may have resulted in degenerative changes to the facet joint joint surfaces, causing an arthritic type problem.
Facet joint pain is typically one sided and is made worse with movement, especially looking over your shoulder or backwards. It may be associated with stiffness and reduced range of movement. Neck pain from the facet joints often radiates into the shoulder and mid back.
Rest from aggravating activities ensures the body can begin the healing process in the absence of further tissue damage. It is also important for patients with this condition to perform early movement, strength and postural exercises.
Most patients with a facet joint sprain heal quickly and have a full recovery with appropriate physiotherapy. With ideal treatment, patients may be pain free in as little as several days, although typically this may take 2 – 3 weeks.
Treatment for a Neck Facet Joint Pain
Physiotherapy treatment for patients with this condition is vital to hasten the healing process, ensure an optimal outcome and decrease the likelihood of injury recurrence. Treatment may comprise:
- Joint mobilisation
- Joint manipulation
- Spinal and pelvic realignment
- Dry needling /acupuncture
- Deep tissue massage/myofascial release
- Exercise programs to stretch, self treat and improve proprioception, balance, strength and core stability
- Biomechanical Assessment
- Neural mobilisation
- Education / training advise/ phased return to exercise
- Activity modification advice
- Ice or heat treatment
- Clinical Pilates
- Injection advice