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Facet Joint Pain Specialist

Jessen Mukalel, MD

Spine, Sports, and Interventional Pain Specialists & Ketamine Infusion Specialist located in The Woodlands, TX

Facet joint pain is a common underlying cause of chronic neck and back pain. Alleviating facet joint pain requires a creative approach. At his private practice in The Woodlands, Texas, interventional pain specialist Jessen Mukalel, MD, conducts comprehensive examinations to determine the most effective treatment to relieve facet joint pain. To schedule an appointment, call the office or book online today.

Facet Joint Pain Q & A

What is the facet joint?

Your facet joint is the connector joint between each vertebral bone in your spine that allows ease of movement without overbending. The space between your facet joints also serves as an exit for your spinal nerves. 

Injury or arthritis may alter the structure and function of the facet joint, leading to pain and swelling. Facet joint pain most often affects the lower back or neck. 

What are facet joint pain symptoms?

Facet joint pain symptoms depend on the area of the spine affected. Facet joint pain is the most common cause of chronic lower back pain without sciatica-like symptoms (such as radiating pain into the lower extremities) or neck pain without arm pain. Other symptoms you may experience with facet joint pain include:

  • Tight muscles around the spine
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty standing up straight 

Conditions that disrupt the normal architecture and mechanics of your spine, such as rheumatological conditions or a history of neck or back surgery, may increase your risk of facet joint pain. 

How is facet joint pain diagnosed?

Dr. Mukalel conducts a comprehensive evaluation to determine the underlying cause of your pain. If he finds that you experience pain when rotating or overextending your spine and you have a history of chronic spine pain, he performs a medial branch block — also called a diagnostic facet block — to diagnose facet joint pain. 

How is facet joint pain treated?

Surgery is rarely effective for treating facet joint pain, and Dr. Mukalel takes a more creative approach to help you get relief. With ablation, he uses heat to destroy the medial branch nerve, which is the nerve that generates pain signals. Ablation is an effective, time-tested long-term therapy for spine pain related to facet joints. 

For acute lower back strains that become debilitating, Dr. Mukalel performs a steroid injection directly into the facet joint. This eliminates acute inflammation in the facet capsule, which allows for immediate pain relief. However, steroids only treat inflammation and not chronic changes. 

Can regenerative medicine help my facet joint pain?

Dr. Mukalel sometimes uses regenerative medicine like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and stem cell therapy to treat facet joint pain. Regenerative medicine is useful for chronic facet joint pain in people with healthy spines. It’s not helpful if the degenerative changes are in the front or middle of the spine because normal spine mechanics and mobility are lost.

Facet joint pain is a common cause of chronic neck and lower back pain that requires a creative approach for relief. For out-of-the-box thinking from an experienced interventional pain specialist, contact the office of Jessen Mukalel, MD, by phone or online today.