Sep 2015 05

Simon's story - the facet joint

By: Dave Wheeler

Simon is a regular client with a regular job that involves a bit of sitting around and a bit of driving. He runs a bit and does a high intensity exercise class once a week... nothing too extreme.

When Simon came in this week, he started to take off his T-shirt and said, rather ominously, "look at this".

He was wonky. Full on crooked. Looking at him from the back his spine was like a large "S".

Now I know I'm getting on a bit, but I think even I would have noticed if he'd been like that before.



For most of us, our spine goes in a straight line up from the tail bone all the way to the base of the skull. 

In some people though,  it can wobble about a bit from one side to the other. This "S"-shaped deviation is called scoliosis.

Scoliosis is defined as being an abnormal twisting of the spine. It can be pretty obvious to spot:

  • the spine looks S-shaped
  • one hip may be obviously higher than the other when viewed from the back
  • one shoulder may be higher than the other
  • clothes that fit, now don't hang properly.

When Scoliosis develops, it's often in younger children. It can take years to develop as the spine grows.

But in Simon's case, the wonkiness had come on very suddenly.


When the facet joint goes walkabout

I see a lot of clients with lower back pain in my clinic, and am used to working on the muscles close to the spine, but when it comes to the spine itself, I'm out of my depth. For that Simon needed an Osteopath.

I spoke to an Osteopath friend of mine who runs Shefford Osteopathic Clinic and described Simon's systems. Straight away she said, "oh yeah, the facet joint's gone... that can be manipulated back in place."

The facet joints are the joints of the spine. They're formed by the bony bits that stick out (technically, the spinous processes). A single facet joint is formed by the spinous process above and the spinous process below.

The facet joints are there to set a limit  on the amount of flexion (bending forward) and rotation of the spine.

In Simon's case, it needed a qualified Osteopath to sort him out.

All I could do was to treat the secondary symptoms - the other muscles around the lower back which he'd been using differently and had therefore started to ache.

We're luck in the Hitchin & Letchworth areas - there are some good Osteopaths around, so if you have spine problems seek one out.

Remember, though, that according to the NHS Choices website, 95% of back pain is muscular - and that I definitely CAN help with!

As ever, if you need to, give me a call.