Thoracic Facet Joint Pain
Spinal joints are made of a three joint complex. One intervertebral joint, and two facet joints. The intervertebral joint is large and designed to support weight. The facet joints are smaller and design to ‘steer’ movement. Over time, as the intervertebral disc starts to wear out, during the ageing process, the facet joints role in load bearing increases. Facet joints become stiff, inflamed and ‘worn out’ leading to boney changes within the joint. This is thoracic facet joint pain. Facet joints are not mean for load bearing, if they do, it is only a matter of time before they become worn out.
Causes of thoracic facet joint pain
Thoracic facet joint pain can be caused by either acute trauma or chronic degenerative changes:
- Acute trauma. Includes whiplash associated disorders, muscle strains and facet joint sprains.
- Chronic degenerative changes. Includes both inflammatory and degenerative arthridities, prolonged poor posture and hypomobility (i.e., decreased movement in the spine).
Pain stemming from the facet joints is termed “facet syndrome.” The facet joints become inflamed and may cause pain and stiffness.
Symptoms of thoracic facet joint pain
The most common symptom of thoracic facet joint pain is pain in the midline of the back along either side of the spine. This pain is typically worse in the mornings and gets better as we move more and progress through the day. Sitting for long periods or immobility may also intensify pain. Changing position often gives some pain relief. Facet joint pain does not refer in the distribution of a nerve (dermatome). It is typically made worse from a combination of extension and rotation, and prolonged periods of inactivity.
Treatment and prognosis of thoracic facet joint pain
Treatment of thoracic facet joint pain with chiropractic is typically very successful. Treatments will likely involve postural correction, massage and soft tissue techniques, and manipulative joint treatments to restore normal mechanics and motion to the joints. Our Balmain chiropractors may also recommended seeking medical advice for the use of anti-inflammatories to help settle the joints down. Most cases of facet joint pain will be treated successfully with chiropractic and no lasting problems will remain. If treatments are slow or do not achieve their desired results our chiropractors may recommend a referral for opinion on facet joint injection as this may help some patients.
Please visit our website for more articles and blogs on related spinal disorders:
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- Diagnostic imaging in chiropractic
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- Thoracic degenerative disc disease
- Thoracic disc herniation
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