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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

May 2000

Back Pain - Part 6: Facet Syndrome

Modified from Taking Your Back to the Future by Michael Gazdar, D.C., C.C.S.P.

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."

It's not yet time to look at my own postural correction. I'm still in the correction mode. Instead, let's move on to the next cause of back pain as outlined by Michael Gazdar, D.C., C.C.S.P. in his book, Taking Your Back to the Future: Facet Syndrome.

The vertebral facets are small joints located in the back of each vertebra. They interlock with the vertebrae directly above and below to form a joint that allows for mobility of the spine. The facets are what make the "popping" sound when the chiropractor adjusts your back as they stretch back into their proper position.

Facets diagram

The facets are highly innervated and sensitive to pain. When they jam against each other (see figure), it causes local back pain. When this happens, they need to be stretched and loosened. Certain types of traction are helpful, but the best way to unlock the joint effectively is to manipulate or adjust it. Only a chiropractor or osteopath is fully trained to do this correctly.

Once the facets have been opened up or adjusted, the pain begins to subside almost immediately. Even so, inflammation of the surrounding connective tissue may take several weeks to settle down. If there has been any direct pressure on the nerve either by the bone or the soft tissue surrounding the facets, there should be an immediate reduction of this pressure. Any malfunction of that nerve arising from pressure would also be relieved. Consequently the organ, gland, or muscle at the end of the nerve would begin to function properly, as its original intention.

Facets also form part of the opening of the hole through which the nerve exits in the side of the spine. This hole is called the inter-vertebral foramina (IVF). If the facets begin to grow larger (hypertrophy) due to stress, bone pathology or trauma, then the hole the nerve passes through will become smaller. This is known as foraminal stenosis. It may also be caused by misaligned vertebrae, which cause swelling and put pressure on the nerve. "Pinching" on the nerve may result in localized pain and possibly radiating pain down into the arms or hands (if the problem exists in the neck) or into the legs or feet (if the problem exists in the low back). An adjustment should relieve this last condition; however, if there is permanent bone growth and the canal has become smaller, it may be necessary to have surgery known as a foraminotomy. Such surgery should be your last alternative.

Chiropractic adjustments, traction, physical therapy, and even acupuncture are the least invasive measures and entail the least amount of risk. If these fail, your chiropractor may consult with a medical specialist for possible drug therapy, such as anti-inflammatory medications and painkillers in conjunction with the adjustments, depending on your case and his or her philosophy. If all else fails, surgery may be the only answer.

In closing, remember that while you are interested in the pain going away, your chiropractor wants your general health to improve as well easing your back pain.

Other articles directly about posture are:

You are invited to watch a If I'm ready, let's check the correction of my own posture - I'm still working on improving my ability to stand tall naturally. of good and bad posture on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida by Paul St. John, LMT. It is a real eye-opener. Please call if you would like to watch it at my clinic.

Next article: If I'm ready, let's check the correction of my own posture - I'm still working on improving my ability to stand tall naturally.

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