Ongoing niggling back pain, symptom of worn facet joint, disc bulge, or something else?

by Chris Brown
(Alice Springs Australia)

Hi Sarah (from Chris Brown, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia)

Im 45 years old have had an ongoing niggling back problem for th last 5-6 years,have seen a few specialists about the issue, and have been told its most likelyt facet joint wear and tear. I had a MRI was taken a few years back and it indicated a slight disc bulge L5 region (see attached report).

The aggravation is all on the left hand side, it would be nice to know precisley what the cause of irritation is either facet joint or disc bulge or combinaton of the two.

Anyway I have recently purchased your book back sufferers bible ( which providfdes me with an excellent understanding of how it the back works Fantastic) as well as back block and ma roller.

Im pretty sure back problem s related to my employment where I am required to undertake weed surveys in dry sandy riverbeds usig 4WD quadbikes in Central Australia, which I have been doing for the last 10 years, where constant vibaration has possibly worn facet joints, also lots of driving on rough dirt roads. It might also just my genetic disposition (father has a hunched back). My concern is if I ontinue with my current employment will it worsen the situation in the long term ( or is the damage already done) which Is what my GP seems to think.

I can go for months with put much of a problem and then the niggling (annoying) slight painds return , I try and swim at least 2-3 times a week, and also do a few Pilates stretches once/twice a day, I can no longer go jogging as this irritates situation.

Probabyl see chiro about 6-8 times a year in the hope that he unlocks the joint / muscles, this doenst always help.
I have also been told that emotional stress often exhibits itself as back pain (tightens muscles).

My biggest concern is that I do not want the situation to worsen over time if I can at all help it, (reduced qulity of life.....any suggestions thoughts would be greatly appreciated

Regards Chris

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Sep 30, 2013
facet joint or disc is the trouble
by: Sarah

Hello Chris,
Please excuse my delay in responding to your post. You are one of a batch that escaped my notice -- so it's not too late I will reply now.
You are right. It is often difficult for the patient to know whether it is disc or facet referring pain to the side of the back or even down the leg. The best indication that it indeed is a facet is if you feel you want to dig your fingers in to the side of the spine. Remember my description in 'The Back Sufferers' Bible' that facet joints 'crave pummelling'. And of course, the other thing to say is that facet joint are far more likely to be the problem and the disc, because that's the way of things with backs. They are the most 'pull-apartable' component part of the spine and as such, much more easily traumatised than a disc. Remember too from your careful reading of the above book, that facet joints also get clobbered when the disc at the same level loses its stuffing. With your travelling dry river beds on the four-wheel-drive bike it is easy to overload and permanently dehydrate the lumbar discs. This means that the lumbar facet joints will then pretty routinely start taking more than their ideal 16% of load.
Your telling me that your father was hunchback alerts me to tell you to make sure that you use the BackBlock under the upper back as well -- since added stoop here also helps to load up the lumbar spine. You can see here on the website How to use a BackBlock under the upper back.
You can mobilise your lumbar facets yourself with our Ma roller, but you can also use the much more lowly tennis ball which is infact kinder and helps breakdown the adhesion formation around the facet joint.
Hope this helps and sorry for the oversight.

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