Can Facet Joint Syndrome Cause Sciatica?

The human body’s joints connect two or more bones and help with motion of the body. One example is the facet joints, which connect each of the vertebrae in your spine. Degenerative changes to the facet joints lead to arthritis, referred to as facet joint syndrome, calling for intensive pain management.

These degenerative changes cause an uneven body weight shift across the facet joints. Pain can come from one or more facets as a result. Also, the joints that get the extra weight experience more wear and tear. Such situations means the capsule thins and the cartilage breaks down, losing its regular shape. 

As with arthritis, facet joint syndrome restricts joint movement, prompting joint inflammation and irritation. The joint then sends pain signals to the brain, causing the adjacent muscles to stiffen and spasm.

Symptoms of Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet joint syndrome can go unnoticed until something triggers the symptoms. These symptoms include a diffuse ache in the lower back that spreads to the buttocks. Any attempt to bend backward or twist sideways towards the affected joint leads to pain. The patient might also experience worse pain if they stand or stay still for long. 

Source of Sciatica

Sciatica refers to pain caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve. Although most people confuse sciatica with general back pain, they are not the same. Unlike general back pain, sciatica is not limited. The reason is that the sciatic nerve runs from the lower back all the way to below the knee.

Another important misconception to debunk is that sciatica is not a condition. Instead, it is a symptom of another problem. One of the conditions that causes sciatic is facet joint syndrome. Here are some of the signs that facet joint syndrome is the culprit:

  • The pain occurs occasionally and randomly
  • Sitting for long worsens the pain
  • Pressing on the aching area leads to soreness or tenderness
  • You feel okay while bending, but pain strikes when getting back up

Facet Joint Syndrome

A pain management specialist can help you arrive at an accurate diagnosis. On your visit to the doctor, they will start with evaluating your medical history. They will then proceed with a physical and neurological exam. They may ask you to bend, twist, walk around, and palpate your back to test pain over the facet joint.

The neurological exam and medical history evaluation will help rule out other possibilities. But the doctor may still need to administer a diagnostic injection to confirm facet joint syndrome. 

Pain Management for Facet Joint Syndrome

Upon confirmation of facet joint syndrome diagnosis, the pain management specialist will develop a suitable plan. The plan will most likely incorporate nonsurgical treatments, such as physical therapy and medication. Common physical exercises associated with alleviating facet joint syndrome pain include core-strengthening exercises and low back stretches. 

If these treatments prove not to be adequate for your condition, the doctor will resort to minimally invasive nonsurgical therapies. This might include therapies like radiofrequency ablation and intra-articular steroid injections.

You can rely on St Louis Pain Consultants for all your facet joint syndrome pain management needs. Contact us today for more information. 

If you are living with chronic pain, seek help from St. Louis Pain Consultants.

We want to help remind you what life without pain feels like.

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