Stiff lower back or Facet Joint Sprain

What is it?

A stiff lower back can be caused by a sprain of a facet joint in the lower back. It is caused by a sudden movement during loading eg lifting, or sustained strain on the lower back. This sudden or prolonged overload on one area of the back causes pain in the joint and surrounding structures eg nerves, ligaments and muscles.

What does it feel like?

  • It feels like your back is stuck and you are unable to turn or bend in certain directions.
  • You may find it difficult to turn or bend over to one or both sides, for example when turning around when reversing, or reaching down to pick up your shoes.
  • Your lower back or mid-back muscles may feel tender and sore to touch.
  • You may have to compensate by moving your whole body to turn due to your lower back feeling stuck in one position.

What causes facet joint sprain?

Facet joint sprain can be caused by a quick, sudden movement when reaching over or sustaining an awkward back position for too long eg falling asleep on the couch. The joints in your back that join one vertebrae to another one below, called facet joints, stiffen and cause the surrounding muscles to go into spasm.

How is facet joint sprain diagnosed?

Your Physiotherapist or Doctor can diagnose facet joint sprain from your symptoms and from hearing about how the injury happened. Your therapist will gently feel your back and pelvis to determine the exact joint or joints that are effected and how the surrounding muscles have compensated.

How can Back in Action Physiotherapy help?

At Back in Action we will gently treat your back muscles first and then do gentle mobilisations to start to free up your facets (back joints). We will talk to you and listen to how your pain is affecting your everyday activities and help you determine goals for returning to normal activities. We can advise and educate you about appropriate stretches and prognosis. Painkillers and anti-inflammatories can help to relieve some pain and also help your therapist treat your back more efficiently, so we recommend you see your local Pharmacist or Doctor regarding the best type for you.