Facet joint pain getting worse

Hi all

This is my first post here so apologies it may be a long one!

I'm 34/almost 35, female, normal weight for my height, sedentary job but enjoy exercise. 3 years ago I started experiencing pain in my lower back, tried all sorts - physio, chiro, acupuncture, personal trainer, probably more stuff I can't remember! Long story short, I was diagnosed with facet joint syndrome in November last year by the pain clinic.

I had a radiofrequency nerve ablation on my L3, L4, L5 vertebrae in January and have been doing twice daily physio to strengthen my core and loosen my muscles since then. Things were progressing well but over the past two weeks the pain is right back to what it was before the procedure. I knew it was by no means a guaranteed "cure" but I'm gutted as things seemed to be going in the right direction. I know there is no specific cure for this and it's more about management but I feel like I've tried everything.

I don't know what to do or where to go now. I have an appointment with my GP soon and think I need to ask for a referral back to the pain clinic, can anyone advise if this is the right route to take? I do not currently take any prescription medication as I have tried to manage it without as much as possible (using CBD, tens machine, massage and over the counter pain relief) but I'm really struggling again so I want to ask about prescription medication even if it's just for the short term. The sudden flare-up and backwards step has really knocked my mental health which I don't think is helping my attitude, I know some people have found antidepressants helpful so I don't know whether to ask for a short course of these also?

Sorry this is more of a rant than anything else, I just needed somewhere to get this all down and hopefully speak to people who have experience of my position.


  • Anna
    Anna Moderator Posts: 733

    Hello@Lcc86 and welcome to the online community,

    You've certainly come to the right place to chat with others about your condition and to have the occasional rant! All our members have experienced arthritis in their lives in some way, and I'm sure those who are living with facet joint syndrome and osteoarthritis of the spine will be happy to share their experiences and offer you support.

    It sounds like you have been doing all you can to manage and improve your condition - working with your GP, attending the pain clinic and doing twice daily physio. It can be dispiriting when we do everything right and then it doesn't seem to work out for us for a while. But you have made the right decision to go back to your GP and to ask for another referral to the pain clinic. It might also be the right time to discuss medication, and of course you should mention how understandably low the situation is making you.

    Below is a link to the Versus Arthritis information page which you might find useful, especially the section on treatments, including different types of medication and gentle exercise.

    I'll let our members welcome you, and I hope to hear how you're getting on.

    Anna (mod)

  • frogmorton
    frogmorton Member Posts: 28,343

    Hi @Lcc86

    I am so sorry about your poor back. You have worked so hard to get it right for things to go backwards again must be so disheartening for you ((()))

    Hopefully this is just a flare which will settle back down.

    I don't have facet issues, but have had back issues since probably late teens culminating in back surgery some 20 years later so I can empathise with your pain and the impact it has on your life.

    It really sounds to me as though you are doing everything right too.

    I would not rule out some pain relief and I have also taken a short course of diazepam in the past for my back and amitriptyline at a very low dose at night has also helped me.

    Of course you should go back to the pain clinic they really are the experts but your GP will help with pain relief for now while you wait. Some people I know have that nerve ablation or injections into their spine on a sort of rolling programme.

    Take care

  • airwave
    airwave Member Posts: 579

    Some of the pain might be caused by your muscles locking up to stop any further injury to your spine. Since you have tried a lot of things, try a massage gun, you’ll need a accommodating partner to use it on you, it works well for me. A couple of go s a day might help?

    A hot wheat bag will also ease the muscles and speed up the circulation helping the healing.

    Have you been lifting or overdoing things? I often do things without thought and pay the price.

    it’s a grin , honest!

  • Lcc86
    Lcc86 Member Posts: 30

    Thank you both and sorry for not responding sooner. I actually do some self massage every night/every other night to help my muscles, it always feels good afterwards but the relief doesn't always last. When I've seen my physio since having the procedure she says my muscles are getting much better, so I am committed to continuing as I know my body is benefitting but the pain levels seem to be going back to where they were.

    My GP has been really good and given me codeine which I'm taking at night (trying to manage using alternative methods during the day) and a referral back to the pain clinic. I don't know why I have such an aversion to wanting to take painkillers, this is something I need to work on.

  • Aj_x
    Aj_x Member Posts: 206

    Evening @Lcc86

    No need to apologies for replying late. One of us will always be here to answer you.

    That is good that you have been told that the muscles are more relieved

    How come you are reluctant to take painkillers??

    Take Care & Stay Safe


  • Lcc86
    Lcc86 Member Posts: 30

    I think it comes from my dad, he has always hated taking medication so I think his aversion rubbed off on me over the years! Plus I worry that if I start taking them I will become too reliant on them and then they'll stop working. I've probably made my own life harder as a result!

  • Aj_x
    Aj_x Member Posts: 206

    Hi @Lcc86

    I have just seen that you replied to my message. Apologies for my late reply.

    How are you getting on? Have you managed to take some tablets yet?

    How are your muscles now? Are you still doing your exercise and self-massage etc?

    Stay Safe & Take Care


  • Lcc86
    Lcc86 Member Posts: 30

    Hi sorry for the late reply myself!

    Still up and down, I am taking painkillers as needed (codeine 30mg). I have periods where I can go a week or more with no need for painkillers but then have a flareup where I need to take them throughout the day. Still doing massage and strengthening exercises, I stopped going to physio as I felt I'd got enough from it so I carry on woth the exercises at home. I'm swimming a few times a week too. Just trying to do everything I can to manage it as best I can as I've realised it potentially won't ever go completely so I need to take the time to get on top of it if that makes sense!