Tiger Woods has been suffering with severe neck pain ever since he returned to play several months back. In fact, neck and shoulder pain caused him to withdraw from THE PLAYERS Championship .
Tiger and his team thought that he had a bulging disc in the neck, or a herniated disc . However, recent MRI findings reveal an inflamed facet joint. The medical diagnosis for this condition is cervical facet syndrome or facet joint syndrome.
Facet joints occur in pairs at the back of each vertebra. The facet joints link the vertebrae directly above and below to form a working unit that permits movement of the spine. The structure of the facet joint is identical to other joints in the body, such as knees and hips.
The bone surfaces of the facet joints are covered with a specialized tissue called articular cartilage. The joint is lined by a membrane called the synovium and enclosed in a fibrous sac called a joint capsule. A thick liquid (synovial fluid) surrounds the joint, allowing the bones to move without friction.
Facet joint syndrome refers to pain that occurs in the facet joints. This syndrome most often affects the lower back and neck. Lumbar facet syndrome might cause referred pain to the buttocks and thigh. Facet syndrome in the neck might cause headaches or shoulder pain.
What are the symptoms of facet joint syndrome?
Symptoms of facet joint syndrome in the lower back include:
Pain or tenderness in the lower back
Pain that increases with twisting or arching the body
Pain that moves to the buttocks or the back of the thighs — This pain is usually a deep, dull ache.
Stiffness or difficulty with certain movements, such as standing up straight or getting up out of a chair
Symptoms of facet joint syndrome in the neck include:
Difficulty rotating the head
What causes facet joint syndrome?
There are several possible causes of pain that originates in a facet joint. An injury and/or changes associated with aging might cause the cartilage cushion that covers the bones to wear away, causing pain as the bones of the joint rub together.
In addition, small nerves that branch out from the spinal nerves supply the facet joints. Irritation or pinching of these nerves also can lead to pain. Poor posture, which forces the spine out of alignment, can be a factor in the development of pain from the facet joints. Trauma, inflammation, infection, and disc degeneration are other suggested causes of facet joint pain.
I'm not sure what kind of treatment Tiger Woods has received for his facet joint syndrome, but I would be very surprised if it did not include all of the above.
The problem is the professional golf tour is non-stop...so no matter how state-of-the-art the treatment...you still need to give the body adequate time to recover. Plus, Tiger has been under a lot of mental stress, which can slow down the healing process.
From my own experience, most cervical facet syndrome's do not require surgery or cervical rhizotomy , the nerve deadening procedure. But, often times professional athletes will do what ever it takes to stay in the game, and deal with the consequences down the road.
However, YOU (the average person) don't have to do this. Most of us have the luxury of being able to rest and recover, such that we don't have to force a treatment that we have to pay for down the road (common in professional sports).
Anyway...hopefully Tiger gets rid of his neck pain and can win a few this year...he is long overdue.
New York City Chiropractor Steven Shoshany offers cervical spinal decompression, laser, Active Release Techniques, and Kinesiotaping. He has lots of experience with professional athletes and facet syndrome. I highly recommend him.