What a pain in the neck!
Have you ever woken up with an incredibly painful neck and a range of motion that makes you feel like all of a sudden you’re the tin man from the Wizard of Oz? You can’t check your blind spot when you’re driving or turn your neck to look at someone when they speak to you without turning your whole upper body because that grabbing pain in your neck is just too much?
Well well well, that sounds like you probably have a facet sprain. Facet joints are joints on the side of your spine. We have facet joints along the whole length of our spine and they help to limit extension which is a normally a very helpful feature. However, sometimes if you extend your neck with too much force (eg. whiplash, a header at soccer, jolting on a trampoline, or any other quick jolting movement or activity) or if you keep your neck in an extended position for an extended period of time (eg. falling asleep on the couch after a few beers) you may cause a sprain at these joints.
A facet joint sprain is a common cause of neck pain.
We usually think of sprains to mean a damaged ligament (like a sprained ankle) which is true, but it can also mean any injury to a ligament or joint capsule that results in pain, inflammation and usually a loss of range of motion. This is our body doing the best it can to protect the injured site and prevent further injury from occurring. In this case the joint capsule of the facet is injured causing this reaction. Because our neck is a pretty sensitive area you may also find that you get headaches, and a tight shoulder or upper back along with the neck pain.
What to do about this neck pain?
First things first, we need to improve the circulation in the injured area. Apply a heat pack and try to move as much as possible in your safe pain range which is usually a 4 out of 10 pain. Anti-inflammatories can also be recommended by your pharmacist. Then get yourself to see your osteopath as soon as possible!
How can osteopathy help with neck pain?
Treatment in the first few days of a facet sprain can make a huge difference. Your osteopath will help reduce some of the pain and restore your range of motion over 3-4 visits in the initial 2 weeks after the injury. After this stage we will be able to re-assess and give you a treatment plan moving forward to ensure you heal fully and reduce your risk of a facet sprain happening again.
If you want to really get on top of a facet sprain quickly you may also consider following up your osteopathy treatment by acupuncture. This combination is great for musculoskeletal problems as it will help to settle your nervous system down and further facilitate healing.
How can I make an osteopathy appointment?