A “Multifaceted” Approach to Back Pain

Do you feel as though you need to turn your entire body to look to one side? Do you wake up with pain in the base of your head and upper back, pain that only gets worse after long car rides or working at a desk all day? Is there an unexplained ringing in your ears?

These are all symptoms of cervical facet syndrome, a condition affecting the small joints connecting one vertebra to the next. These facet joints give you the ability to twist, walk, bend, sit and more. In facet syndrome—which can also affect the middle and lower back—the cartilage cushioning these joints degenerates, causing friction between the bones and resulting in inflammation and swelling.

Normally seen in adults aged 50 or older, cervical facet syndrome can also affect younger individuals because of bad posture, overuse or traumatic injuries such as whiplash. No matter what the cause, cervical facet syndrome can lead to chronic pain and discomfort, and affect your flexibility and mobility.

The first step on the road to relief is to obtain a proper diagnosis. In the neck and back, it can be difficult to distinguish where pain is coming from, and different conditions can cause similar symptoms. To ensure that cervical facet syndrome is really causing your pain, your physician may try a technique called facet joint injection, using a special type of x-ray to visualize the joints of the spine and injecting them with anti-inflammatory medication. If your pain immediately disappears with the injection, then you will have confirmation that facet syndrome is truly the problem. This test is also therapeutic, providing much-needed relief for your discomfort.

After your diagnosis and treatment, we can design a gentle exercise program that will strengthen the muscles in your spine to compensate for the degeneration and damage. We will help you to increase flexibility and relieve pain, while we make sure your posture and movements do not exacerbate the condition. Using heat, massage and other modalities, we can greatly improve your range of motion and comfort level. You might even call it a “multifaceted” approach to the cervical facet problem!