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Facet joints

Low back pain may be caused by the painful lumbar facet joints. They are on the back of the spinal column and have the role to connect the vertebrae together. The surfaces where the joints meet are covered with articular cartilage. Because of articular cartilage, arthritis may affect facet joints.

Painful facet joints

24 vertebrae that are stacked on top of one another make the spine. A bony ring is formed by the back part of the column. Vertebrae and these bony rings make together a hollow tube, which is called the spinal canal. This spinal canal environs the spinal cord, which passes down from the brain through the spine. Between each pair of vertebrae are two facet joints and they are very flexible. Because of that, a person can bend forward or backward. These facet joints are covered by articular cartilage, as it is said above. Articular cartilage is a smooth material that allows the bones to smoothly move against each other, without any damage or friction. However, if arthritis occurs, articular cartilage becomes affected and damaged, more precisely, and it wears away.

Typically, each fragment in the spine has three main points of movement. There is the intervertebral disc in front and the two facet joints in the back. These structures may be damaged by injury or certain problems. Furthermore, aging also contributes to the worsening of these joints and disc. If one of these structures is damaged, the rest two are also affected. Bone spurs are developed by the body’s immune system, because of the pressure on the facet joints. Furthermore, the articular cartilage wears away and the bone remains uncovered, which leads to a very painful condition that is medically called osteoarthritis. The facet joints in osteoarthritis are inflamed, painful and swollen. Arthritis of the facet joints is the condition that gradually and slowly progresses. However, in the case of heavy twisting and rapid movements of the low back, arthritis may aggravate.

The people who suffer from painful facet joints usually experience a severe and worsen pain after the rest or sleep. The trunk bending backwards or sideways only aggravates the pain. The pain that is caused by the facet joint may be first felt in the center lower back and from that place spread out to one or both buttocks. It can also extent to the tights, but rarely expends further than that. In the case of painful facet joints, the symptoms of nerve compression are not present, because facet joints only produce mechanical pain that occurs only with movement.

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