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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Chittleborough

Injury blog: Cervical spine facet joint lock

Have you ever woken up with a stiff neck? There may be more to it than just a dodgy pillow or mattress. You could have experienced a cervical spine facet joint lock. Now, its formal name is a ‘zygapophyseal joint’ — but who on earth thought that was a good idea?! Luckily we are sticking to the simpler term in this blog! Keep reading to find out what it is and how we can help!

What are cervical facet joints?

Facet joints are located in the spine. Between each vertebra, lies a disc at the front and two facet joints at the back. Those in the cervical spine (or c-spine… AKA the neck) are specifically located in between each of the C1-C7 vertebrae. Just like joints in all other parts of your body, they help promote healthy movement and stability. In this case, they specifically help our neck to bend forward, backwards, sideways and rotate left and right. So next time you are having a sticky beak at what the person behind you has ordered, you can thank your facet joints!

What is a facet joint lock?

A facet joint lock is exactly as it sounds — it occurs when a joint ‘locks’ into place and is unable to move freely.

It can be caused by a range of situations:

● Injury or trauma (e.g. whiplash)

● Quick jerk movements

● Poor sleeping position

● Excessive overloading

● Wear and tear from ageing

Most sufferers experience pain in the neck, which can also radiate in the shoulders, upper arm and down the back. You will likely feel stiff and have difficulty turning your head in one or more directions. Prolonged inactivity, standing or high intensity exercise can aggravate pain. You may also experience headaches or muscle spasms in surrounding areas.

How can we help?

Chiropractic treatment is your go-to option for anything spine! There are various treatment options we can use to ease your pain and get mobility back — nobody has time to live with a dodgy neck!

Spinal manipulation involves applying a specific amount of controlled force to a joint. In this case, we will assess if manipulation is appropriate, depending on the level of restriction. You may hear a ‘crack’ or two, but it is completely safe and carefully considered. We may also treat the surrounding areas like the lower back and shoulders as these can tense up from overcompensation.

If manipulation is inappropriate for your case. We may use spinal mobilisation as it is a gentler adjustment approach that keeps the joint in normal range. Mobilising the joint will help release some tension and get you on a path to restoring full movement.

Cervical traction is another gentle option that may help. Traction works to pull your head away from your neck to expand the space between your vertebrae. We may use our hands or a traction machine that relies on a harness being attached to your head, which is then attached to the machine. Trust us, it isn’t as scary as it seems — it does wonders for lengthening the spine, promoting the movement of fluid in the joint, helping to decrease pain and increase range of motion!

If you are experiencing any neck pain, don’t wait! Call us on 0413 774 399 or email to book your appointment!

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