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Old 12-11-2011, 08:08 PM   #1
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Facet Joint Problems and RF Ablation

After 6 years of lower back pain, right hip pain, muscle tightness in my back especially on the right side, muscle tightness in my right hamstring, and numbness in the two smallest toes on my right foot, I am finally feeling human and pain free again.

I have had x-rays, MRI's and CT scans. I have been told I have sciatica, chronic back pain, piriformis syndrome, and an SI joint problem. I have a transitional lumbar vertebra (6 lumbar and only 4 sacral), with a psuedoarthrosis (false joint) on the right side. I have been through physical therapy, medications, and a couple different types of injections.

In May of this year, I started with a new pain management doctor. After a review of my records, various films and my medical records, he decided to do a pair of medial branch nerve blocks as diagnostics, he recommended RF Ablation on those same nerves. Facet joint disorder is the diagnosis. I had the procedure done at the end of October (on Halloween! - no he did not turn me into a zombie), and for the first time in 6 years, I feel like myself again. I have hardly any pain at all now. I am only 6 weeks post procedure. I do still get a bit of muscle tightness in my right hip, along with a little bit of tightness right in the spine, but other than that, I am feeling awesome. The pain never lasts long now. I have been able to start doing some exercises again to strengthen the core muscles to help keep this problem from flaring up again.

While this treatment will not last forever, I can do what I can to help keep it from coming back, and can have the procedure again if need be. I continue to increase my exercises and add a couple of new ones. I am only doing about 4 different exercises right now, and will not add any new ones until I meet with my doc for my follow up at the beginning of January.

The thing about facet joint problems is that it mimics disc herniation symptoms, and is very unpredictable as to when it will flare up and what will set it off. It's a very frustrating thing to have to deal with. Something as simple as sleeping wrong or carrying something a bit too heavy can set it off. You feel like you can barely walk, and doctors will often treat you as if it's all in your head since there is nothing majorly conclusive in your imaging studies.

With any back problem, keep pushing until you find a doctor that takes you seriously. Not all back problems can be fixed, I know that. Even mine only has a temporary fix, but I have the chance now to try and keep it from being a major problem in the future.

I actually have three issues besides the facet joint issue. I also have an SI joint problem, disc degeneration, and the transitional vertebra. I can now tolerate doing exercises, so I can build up the core muscles to try and limit future problems. The best things for me right now is that I have an answer, and I was able to get a temporary treatment that enables me to do what I can to help myself now.

 
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Old 03-07-2012, 08:36 AM   #2
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Re: Facet Joint Problems and RF Ablation

Four months post RF Ablation, and still doing well in the spine. Now having to look at the right si joint, as that flared up again in January in a big way. I have my first diagnostic injection on this later this month. The follow up appointment for the RF was when we decided on the diagnostics. Doc did a couple of things during the physical exam, and one included me standing on one leg while they applied light pressure to the si joint on the same side as the leg I was standing on. Pressure on the right side just about put me through the ceiling.

I also have an appointment scheduled with a surgeon specializing in the hip and pelvic region, as I want to cut down the time I have to wait for knowing my options.

 
Old 03-07-2012, 01:41 PM   #3
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Re: Facet Joint Problems and RF Ablation

I'm delighted that you got some relief from the treatment. I am curious why you are going to see someone who specializes in the hip and pelvic region.

Is it because, in the event it is determined that the SI joints are not the source of pain, you want to be prepared to move ahead exploring other options?

I cannot tell from your posts if you have had consultations with a spine specialist. This would be either an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon whose practice is limited to the neck and back. If your previous diagnoses have come from pain management doctors, and you haven't consulted with a spine surgeon, I would suggest you consider the possibility.

 
Old 03-07-2012, 02:05 PM   #4
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Re: Facet Joint Problems and RF Ablation

Hi Lefty 85,
I'm really sorry that you've gone through so much with your back/SI joint! Is your facet joint disorder another way to describe facet joint arthritis? Your post was very helpful to me (as I'm getting as much info as I can when I meet with my spine OS next week). I have advanced lumbar facet arthritis with and extreme muscle hypertrophy in my lower back (and some other issues). The pain that you experienced is so similar to my pain. It continues to get worse but I'm hopeful that I can get the pain under control at some point.

Let Me Walk,
Julie

 
Old 03-09-2012, 09:05 AM   #5
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Re: Facet Joint Problems and RF Ablation

tetonteri, I am consulting with the pelvic/hip specialist on the assumption that the SI joint is the problem. I don't want to delay if it is, and with the location of pain and things that set it off, along with the physical exam, it likely is. After dealing with this for 6 years, I am tired of waiting. I had actually set an appointment with this surgeon last year, but once the pain management doc got onto the trail of the facet joints, I cancelled. Guess I should have kept that one after all. I could have already been done with this . . . maybe.

I have seen several spine specialists over the years, and the one I was seeing prior to the current doctor was looking at the SI Joint. We moved, and that is the reason for the change in doctors.

If the SI Joint isn't an issue, then I continue with the pain management doc. He has done well by me, and I like him. This is actually the first pain management doc I have seen.

 
Old 03-09-2012, 09:12 AM   #6
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Re: Facet Joint Problems and RF Ablation

[QUOTE=let me walk;4940446]Hi Lefty 85,
I'm really sorry that you've gone through so much with your back/SI joint! Is your facet joint disorder another way to describe facet joint arthritis? Your post was very helpful to me (as I'm getting as much info as I can when I meet with my spine OS next week). I have advanced lumbar facet arthritis with and extreme muscle hypertrophy in my lower back (and some other issues). The pain that you experienced is so similar to my pain. It continues to get worse but I'm hopeful that I can get the pain under control at some point.

Let Me Walk,
Julie[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the thoughts! It has been a rough 6 plus years. October will mark 7 years.

Yes, the facet joint disorder is the same thing as facet arthritis, as it has been explained to me by my doc. I do have some other issues with my spine, which contributes to the problem, and mine is not advanced or extreme. Glad that my posts can help someone else with their research! I hope your doc can get you some relief soon.

 
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