232019Aug
Stiff and painful neck? Facet joint injury explained

Stiff and painful neck? Facet joint injury explained

Treating stiff and sore necks has to be up there as one of the most common things we do for patients on a day-to-day basis. There are numerous causes for neck pain, the most common being muscle strain, joint restriction, underlying degeneration and disc-related injuries. We regularly see injuries relating to the facet joints of the neck. Facet joints are the small joints between two vertebrae in the spine.

What are facet joints there for?

Depending on their position, they restrict and allow certain movements based on how the joint surfaces are orientated. In the neck, the joints are orientated in such a way that allows for relatively large amounts of movement, through forward and backward bending (flexion and extension), side-to-side bending (lateral flexion), and some twisting (rotation) too. If you move your head around, you will notice your neck is the most mobile part of your spine. This can mean it is at higher risk of injury.

How do these joints get injured?

It could be something as silly as a quick glance over the shoulder to check your blind spot in the car, or spending an extended period looking up like when having to paint a ceiling in a house. There are usually underlying movement issues that lead you to this point, such as joint restrictions higher up in the neck or in the mid-back. That quick glance over the shoulder could be enough to sprain it (some patients call it a “crick”), or the long period spent looking up could over-compress the joint surfaces and lead them to lock up. Mums who spend hours looking down at their bubbas can also put these joints under strain, ending up with a very stiff and painful neck.

Can an Osteopath help?

Of course! In addition to our manual, hands-on treatments, there are many ways we can help. When you come into Infinity, we will sit down with you and have an in-depth chat to get a real understanding of your lifestyle and the issue you’re currently experiencing. We’ll scan through the risk factors and help you understand how to minimise them so that you can try to prevent those pesky sore neck issues. We’ll look into your home and work life, hobbies and sports and even how you spend your time relaxing and sleeping. These are all areas that can play a part in your health.

Initially, we will focus our attention on relieving your pain. Our treatment will be hands on to massage the muscles, mobilise the joints, and possible use of manipulation to achieve optimal joint motion and muscle relaxation. We’ll then give you some exercises and lifestyle advice so you can leave knowing how to manage the problem at home and continue to improve further.

A locked facet joint will typically take a few days to calm down following injury. Once the initial inflammation reduces, the pain will begin to decrease, movement will start to improve and you should start to feel back to normal again. We want you pain free and moving better than ever!

Look after yourselves,

Evan