Back pain is common in a chiropractic and physical therapy office. We see a lot of people with mild, moderate, and severe injuries and pain levels. Not all back pain is the same. Facet joint injuries are very common but people do not really talk about them.
Every lumbar spinal vertebrae has a disc above and below it. The discs provide space between the bones and also allow movement. They keep the bones separated and help the facet joints move through their normal motions. The facet joints are on the back part of the vertebrae that work with the bones above and below. Facet joints are weight bearing, meaning they help support your body weight. But they also play a major role in movement.
Facet joints help you to bend, turn, twist, flex, extend, and rotate. A healthy spine can do all of these motions without pain. Because of the movements and forces associated with twisting movements, the facet joints can become injured. Any injury to a facet joint creates pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms. The muscles respond to protect the facet joint. The body tries to prevent any excessive motion from damaging the joint further. However, in the process the pain fibers in the facet joint are screaming at the brain, ouch!
Every time you stand you are jamming the injured facet joints together. Twisting or extending backwards causes forces to surge through the joint, which is painful. Separating the joints relieves some of the stress and reduces the amount of pain signals sent to the brain.
Flexion distraction works by using your legs and feet as a counter weight to separate the lumbar facets to decrease back pain. When the joints are separated there is less pain signals flowing to the brain. Instead of pain, the brain receives healthy movement signals which decreases your pain. Decompression therapy helps facet injuries in the same way. it is a slow and controlled stretch that relieves the pain signals traveling to the brain.
Flexion distraction therapy is easily controlled. During the procedure we can feel your muscles twitch or tighten, which tells the provider not to stretch the joint anymore. Most people feel significant relief while on the table.
We often combine flexion distraction therapy with intersegment traction, which provides further pain free controlled motion into the back.
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