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Is Lower Back Joint Pain Arthritic? 

 July 21, 2022

By  Linda Rook

The Spine

Introduction.

Facet arthropathy or another name is facet joint osteoarthritis. Is a degenerate disease by wear and tear. Mainly the cartilage between the facet joints becomes thinner and damaged.

Therefore, with all Osteoarthritis, the result is the two bones rubbing together or hard to move, causing pain, swelling and stiffness. Also, it is incurable, but the pain and stiffness could improve your quality of life with treatment.

The Causes of Facet Arthropathy.

Facet arthropathy is said to be common in the back and/or neck in the elderly. The cause of this is when the cartilage between two joints breaks down or gets damaged, this could be as follows.

  • Osteoarthritis – A degenerative disease from wearing away the cartilage of the joints. It mainly develops in the weight-bearing joints like the hips or knees but can affect any joints.
  • An injury or accident – this could be a car accident or sports injury, or even a fall can damage your facet joints, which can lead to facet arthropathy.
  • Facet Degeneration - wear and tear of the joints caused by just ageing, or it could be from heavy lifting, posture wrong, or disc problems.
  • Synovial cyst – this is a sac filled with fluid that could develop in the spine and could be a result of ageing.
Pain at the bottom of spine

Other causes.

Other causes could be bone spurs; these are tiny bone extensions. The bone spurs decrease the area for the nerve roots and could lead to spinal stenosis.

Spinal stenosis could cause numbness or weakness of the buttocks and legs and is associated with conditions such as arthritis or facet arthropathy.

Symptoms.

The main symptom of facet arthropathy is pain; you may experience the following three symptoms:

  • You may have back or neck pain when you bend or lean backwards.
  • You could have aggressive back pain if you twist or lift objects.
  • Or parts of your back or neck will feel stiff or unable to move.

Also, other complications like back muscle injury or sprains can cause similar symptoms.

In my case, I have lower back pain from my artificial right hip. When I had my hip replacement, the surgeon left me with the right leg longer than the left, and I was walking around with the right leg ¾ inch longer than the other. Therefore, my lower spine disc is not level and causes me to have a lot of pain. I now have a block on my left shoe to balance me properly.

Risk Factor.

There is not just one cause or risk factor for facet arthropathy.

Facet Arthropathy in the Neck.

The vertebrae are at the top of the spine, known as the cervical spine. This has been shown that there are no obvious risk factors.

A study showed no link between cervical facet arthropathy, gender, age or body weight.

But there have been no studies to show whether any strenuous actions like lifting, pulling, or carrying might be caused by cervical facet arthropathy.

Lumbar Facet Arthropathy.

The lumbar region in the spine is the small of your back where the spine is curved inwards. This part of the spine supports much of the body’s weight. Therefore, the vertebrae are more prominent and expansive in this area than the others.

The risk factors of facet arthropathy of the lumbar region are:

  • Your age – this is more common in older people.
  • Sex – women are more likely to develop this than men.
  • Ethnicity – if you are African American, you are less likely to have lumbar facet arthropathy.
  • Body weight – when you are overweight, you are three times more at risk with a BMI (body mass index) of 25-30 and five times more than people with a BMI of 30-35.
Elderly Couple

Heredity.

You are prone to getting facet arthropathy when you have a family history of the disease. In comparison, it may have a role in the degeneration of the discs in the back, which could lead to facet arthropathy.

If you have facet arthropathy, you may develop Osteoarthritis in the hip and knees that are linked to genetics.

Diagnosis.

Your doctor can diagnose facet arthropathy by doing an imaging test. An imaging test can show them your bones and joints in the spine and identify the damage to your facet joint and the severity of the injury.

The medical professional will use one or more of:

MRI scan
  • X-ray.
  • Bone Scan.
  • CT scan (computerised Tomography).
  • or MRI scan (magnetic resonance imaging).

Treatment.

The treatment will focus on relieving the pain and stiffness, helping the patient stay as mobile as possible.

The treatment may be:

Prescribing you with NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The medication could include ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen.

  • Prescription Drugs - These relieve your pain and calm inflammation.
  • Physio - Your doctor may send you to a physical therapist to give you specific exercises to strengthen your spine and help with movement.
  • Radiofrequency ablation - This treatment uses radiofrequency that shuts down the nerves in the facet joints to stop the nerves from sending pain signs to the brain.
  • Anaesthetic injection - The treatment will use a needle and inject the anaesthetic directly into the spine. I have had this done every four months, it helps for about three to four months, but then I need another dose.
  • Spine surgery - For severe patients, you could have a procedure known as spinal fusion. With this, they fuse the spinal bones affected together to make one bone. This alleviates the pain by stopping the joint from moving.

Prevention.

You can take steps to prevent facet arthropathy and Osteoarthritis by doing the following:

  • Maintain your weight – if you are overweight, this increases the risk.
  • Regular exercises – you must do low-impact exercises daily, like swimming or walking.
  • Injuries – everyone has accidents, but some can be avoided. You should wear proper gear when you play sports and lift light objects.
  • Good posture – when sitting, you should have your back straight and also standing and walking.
  • Smoking – it would help if you quit smoking, as smoking can cause harm to the tissues and bones.
  • Avoid any movement that worsens the pain, such as lifting, overreaching the back etc.
  • Healthy diet – you must eat healthy like fruit and veg. Whole grain etc., look at my blog on the Mediterranean and the dash diet.
  • Supplements – to keep your bones healthy, you may need calcium or vitamin D.
You should never start smoking.

BUT before thinking of taking supplements, you need to talk to your doctor first.

Conclusion.

To prevent facet arthropathy later in life, you must maintain a healthy weight, exercise each day, wear protective clothing when playing sports, stand and sit up straight and try vitamin D and calcium that help support the bones.

When you have facet arthropathy or other back conditions, the symptoms will, unfortunately, not go away. But, by following your doctor’s advice and treatment plan, you can significantly reduce the symptoms and live a healthier, more active life.

I hope this article has helped you. Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs or videos. Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message: I will get back to you within 24 hours.

In the meantime, if this post were informative, I’d be very grateful if you’d help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to help them. So please share it on Twitter or Facebook or send them an email.

REMEMBER DO NOT USE SUPPLEMENTS BEFORE SEEING YOUR DOCTOR.

Linda Rook

Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 


Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.


Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.


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