This is arthritis of the neck or lower back. If you turn your head and neck and hear the cricking and cracking, that is your facet joint. Pain is also worse with looking up and is felt in the lower back with twisting maneuvers such as mopping/sweeping. When you sleep with your legs propped up, you are taking pressure off your facet joints in your lumbar spine. Lifting with your back strains your facet joint. These joints degenerate with age and can get injured/sprained just like any other joint in the body.
Facet Joint pain – Aching or cramping, pain in the neck can go from the neck to the shoulder to the arm. The pain never goes below the elbow. Pain in your back could be in your back, buttocks, and thigh; never goes below the knee.
Treatment options: Chiropractic treatment works well for this as manipulation of the joint can get mobility back into it. Other treatments: anti-inflammatory, pain creams, and tens unit. If the above fails, we can inject the joint (just like any other joint) with numbing medication (bupivacaine) and steroid. An injection works best if the joint is still in good condition by taking inflammation out of the injured joint. If the joint has significant arthritis or the joint injection does not give long-term pain relief, a Rhizotomy to cauterize/burn the nerve (medial branch nerve) that picks up sensation of joint can give longer relief (nerve usually dies for 12 months after procedure). Before a rhizotomy is done, a testing procedure called a medial branch block is performed. This is just numbing the medial branch nerve and looking for improvement in pain after the procedure (testing/diagnostic block). Rhizotomies can be repeated up to every 8 months if pain returns. If a rhizotomy fails or stops working (not getting at least 8 months of pain relief), the next treatment level is a TrueFuse procedure. TrueFuse is micro invasive procedure that stabilizes the facet joint with a cadaver bone and stem cell. TrueFuse usually produces the results of rhizotomy, for a longer duration. The next level above TruFuse is the use of rods and screws, which is a fusion done by a surgeon.