Thank God for Big Pharma


I check my spelling before hitting enter. Yup, that’s what the physio was talking about: my facette joints.

Did you mean ‘facet’?

Oh, lordy, here we go again: Google second-guessing me. No, I did not mean “facet” – it was clearly pronounced “fa-cette.” I scan down the hits and find what I’m looking for.


A little smugly, perhaps – Facet, hah! — I click on my promised definition.



OK. Click again.


OK, OK. Clearly this usage is new to me and has its own slightly oddball pronunciation. Now, what about these facet/facette joints? Oh, look, here’s a site bound to be helpful in my current state: All About Back and Neck Pain.

The facet joints are the joints in your spine
that make your back flexible and enable you to bend and twist.

Or not, as it turns out. Let’s see what others have to say.

Patients with lumbar facet joint syndrome may experience:

  • Lower back pain and stiffness
  • Difficulty twisting, bending and arching
  • Pain, cramping and weakness in the buttocks or thighs
  • Trouble getting out of a chair
  • Difficulty standing up straight

Check, check, check, check, and check. Also, unmentioned, a tendency to gasp or shriek at unpredictable intervals when changing position or holding still; when lying, sitting, standing, or walking gingerly; and when being examined by a physiotherapist or being looked at sideways by an understandably unnerved significant other.

Nonetheless, this is clearly what I have: if not the syndrome then at least the acute attack. I wonder how my treatment regimen stacks up against the great interweb.

Facet joint syndrome in any location of the spine often can be treated with conservative methods. Anti-inflammatory medication (check), physical therapy (check), periods of rest, exercise and alternating hot and cold (check) compresses are some of the more effective treatments for this condition.

Well, there you go: I’m getting conservative treatment. As I shift ever so slightly in my chair and shriek, somehow that knowledge doesn’t satisfy. I wonder if there are, you know, more aggressive options. Perhaps something more suited to the degree of, you know, pain.

More lasting relief of the facet joint problem can be obtained by destroying some of the tiny nerve endings serving the joints. This can be accomplished by a tip freezing or an electrified hot probe technique (also known as a facet rhizotomy) performed under careful X-ray control, (or for a lesser time by a carefully controlled injection of botox toxin which treats the muscle spasm).

Hmm. I admit to being made uneasy by talk of “destroying nerve endings” and words like “freezing,” “electrified,” and “hot probe” in connection with my body, although I do wonder whether I could get facial botox treatments at the same session. Are there any other options, like good old-fashioned surgery, say?

Patients who have found little to no relief
after several weeks or months
of following these and other doctor-recommended treatments
may be asked to consider surgery.

I’m sorry. What did they just say? Little to no relief after several weeks or months? Are they kidding me?

Postscript: My facet/facette joint pain has been vanquished by that conservative standby, anti-inflammatory medication.


This entry was posted in Feeling Clearly, Laughing Frequently, Sports and Exercise and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Thank God for Big Pharma

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Do I understand correctly that a conservative approach is just another pain in the facette?

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    All pharmaceutical relief is temporary; if you stop taking the medication, the pain comes back. The only sure solution — I’m reliably informed by dozens of conservative Christian programs on TV — is to cast your pain on Jesus. He will bear your suffering and set you free.
    Yes, I’m being sarcastic. But, strangely, there is some truth in it. Joan and I were camping in the Qu’Appelle Valley one time. Worst mosquito plague I had ever experienced. Not just numbers, but viciousness. We de-camped, escaped to the car, headed westward as fast as our little wheels could carry us. Both of us itching and scratching everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. I was still in a more or less conventional religious understanding in those days, so I said, in despair, “Okay, Jesus, if you want all these damn mosquito bites, TAKE THEM!!!!” By the time we got to a restaurant down the road that served fresh-baked maple muffins for breakfast, the itching was gone, if not the welts.
    Figure that one out….
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Interesting. Cast your mosquito bites on the waters, eh? I do know that when troubled by some problem, if I acknowledge it and promise myself to take it up at a certain date – with, for example, a counselor – that mental action defuses the anxiety arising from the problem. But if I keep trying to ignore the problem, my sub(un?)conscious keeps poking me.

  3. Judith Umbach says:

    Congratulations on trusting the conservative treatment. A mother once told me that Dr Spock’s then famous book was excellent. Usually by the time she had read all about whatever might be ailing the baby, the baby had fallen asleep. The internet serves that purpose well, although in older ages we don’t heal quite so quickly. Good luck for no reoccurrence.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Yes, always good to start small. 🙂 And to remember the “Do no harm” dictum.

  4. barbara carlson says:

    For my 7 years (!) of back pain I finally went to a chiropractor. It took awhile, but I am, for the most part, free from pain — if I sit correctly supported, put heat on my back on waking, walk 1/2 a day, don’t sit too long, or lie in bed too long…it’s like living with an old, beloved dog who needs constant attention but both are worth it.

    (I still go to a chiro every 2 weeks — regret the 10 years when I let that slide.)

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I’ve seen some statistics that say, effectively, it doesn’t matter what you do for your back pain. Treat it or not, eventually it goes away and in about the same amount of time. Not sure I agree, but there does appear to be inherent difficulty in diagnosing the problem correctly and then taking effective action. I’m just glad I have access to both meds and physios who take action that helps me! And delighted when others find things that work for them . . .

  5. Alison says:

    It WILL get better!

Comments are closed.