Reach behind you and feel the center of your low back, just above the buttocks. This is your lumbar spine. Lumbar facet syndrome is a painful condition affecting the joints in this area, called the lumbar facet joints. These are responsible for connecting the vertebrae (spinal bones) in the spine, providing it with protection, limiting excessive motion and preventing the vertebrae from locking together.
Patients suffering from lumbar facet syndrome usually complain of a well-localized pain in the lumbar spine, as well as a duller type pain in one hip, buttock or upper leg. This irritation is called referred pain, which is a type of pain that originates in one area and spreads to surrounding areas.
Symptoms of facet syndrome usually get worse when people sleep on their stomach, twist their torso, work with their arms above their head, extend backward or rise from a sitting position. All these activities expose the joints to stress that they aren't accustomed to, making them more vulnerable to injury and irritation.
Such problems usually begin after patients have a similar condition called lumbar facet irritation and don't get proper care. This condition usually develops suddenly, sometimes after a misjudged movement involving the back, like sudden twisting, or while people are recovering from a bent position. It can also be the result of repetitive twisting movements like swinging a golf club. These activities stretch joint capsules (which protect and support the joints) or jam facet joints, leading to painful swelling and inflammation. Other causes of facet irritation include subluxations (stuck or misaligned joints), poor posture, everyday wear-and-tear and trauma to the low back.
The difference between lumbar facet syndrome and lumbar facet irritation is that patients with the latter only have pain in the low back, and not the accompanying referred pain. For either condition, chiropractic care is an effective plan of management. Chiropractors perform a procedure called spinal manipulative therapy, also known as an adjustment, which relieves pain and restores function to misaligned or malfunctioning joints.