3 Things Swimmers Need To Know About Facet Joint Pain

Facet joint pain, also called lumbosacral facet syndrome, is a sports injury characterized by pain in your facet joints. Your facet joints are the joints that hold your vertebrae together and make your back flexible. Here are three things swimmers need to know about facet joint pain.

What are the signs of facet joint pain?

Facet joint pain causes pain in your lower back, and the area overlying the damaged joint will be tender to the touch. This pain can radiate down the backs of your thighs. You'll notice that the pain is better while you're leaning forward but worse while you're leaning backward. Basic activities like standing or sitting will be painful, and you may not be able to drive your car without suffering continual muscle spasms in your lower back.

To diagnose this injury, your doctor will need to take x-rays. X-rays will usually show the damage to your facet joints, but you may need to undergo a CT scan if your doctor needs higher-quality images.

How does swimming cause facet joint pain?

Repetitive stress on your facet joints leads to this injury. When you swim, you need to twist your back repetitively, especially if you're doing strokes like the forward crawl or backward crawl. This repetitive twisting puts strain on your facet joints, and over time, it can damage the joints.

Incorrect rolling technique can also damage your facet joints. If you arch your back during your flip turns, you'll put torsional stress on the very base of your spine, where it meets your pelvis. This torsional stress can damage the facet joints in your lower back.

How is facet joint pain treated?

The initial treatment for facet joint pain is rest. However, you shouldn't be on bed rest for more than two days because it can weaken your bones, muscles and other important tissues.

Activity modification is the next phase of treatment, and you'll need to avoid doing things that aggravate your facet joints, like swimming or leaning backwards. At this point, your doctor may refer you to a physiotherapist. The physiotherapist will design a guided exercise plan to stretch and strengthen your back muscles. They will also teach you how to avoid re-injuring your facet joints in the future. This may include in-pool sessions to refine your flip turn technique.

Facet joint pain is a potential cause of lower back pain among competitive swimmers. For more information, contact Friedrich Tomas J MD or a similar medical professional.