As a doctor who works with severe neck and back pain patients, a common question that new patients ask is, “What are those popping, clicking and grinding sounds in my neck?”
I often joke with patients about the “Rice Krispies” sounds or the “sand paper” sounds that they will tell me that they are experiencing when they turn their head. The reality of these sounds are that they are not normal and are serious.
As I am writing this article, I realize that I have been joking about a serious health condition that causes lost quality of life and big time pain. I didn’t do it intentionally.
Maybe it’s because that these sounds are easy to eliminate with my unique treatment protocols and because of that, I take it for granted. It’s easy to laugh and joke about something that is easy to fix, right?
However, the “sounds” that people hear when turning their head side to side or look up and down come from grinding of the vertebrae in the neck. Most specifically, the grinding is in the facet joints which is what ultimately causes facet joint hypertrophy.
Facet joint hypertrophy is no joke. Facet joint hypertrophy is a form of arthritis in the spine that comes from chronic inflammation and degenerative disc disease. Basically, facet joint hypertrophy is enlargement of the facet joints.
When the facet joints are chronically inflamed, the body goes through natural healing processes in every attempt to try to repair the chronically inflamed tissues.
Calcium is often used by the body to repair damaged tissues. A broken bone is a great example. When you break a bone, the area gets very inflamed. Natural processes are set into action that brings calcium into the area so that the broken bone can heal itself.
Facet joint hypertrophy is different. It is caused by chronic inflammation. A broken bone is “acute” inflammation. Chronic inflammation takes place over years and years which leads to damage of the inflamed joints and tissues.
What causes facet joint hypertrophy? Several health problems can cause the facet joints to get jammed and inflamed. Of course, there are the obvious causes such as traumas and injuries.
For our purposes, we are going to focus on age related changes that can cause the facet joints to get inflamed and degenerate. Yes, I said it. Facet joint hypertrophy is a form of degeneration and arthritis.
Causes of Facet Joint Hypertrophy
1. A herniated or bulging disc can cause narrowing of the foramina (canals) that the nerves travel through as they exit the spine. Narrowing of the canal (foraminal canal stenosis) can cause pressure to the spinal nerve. As the nerve becomes irritated, it can swell and become inflamed. The spinal nerves are in such close proximity to the facet joints that they can become inflamed as well and enlarge (arthritic) over time.
2. A degenerative disc is a sign of disc desiccation. A desiccated disc is basically a dehydrated, worn out, flat disc. Spinal discs are supposed to be thick in order to provide cushion between the bones but also to give shock absorption. When a disc is flat and dehydrated, the facet joints get closer together and are jammed. Once again, the joints grind and get inflamed which leads to arthritis of the facet joints, a.k.a. “facet joint hypertrophy”.
Can anything be done to help Facet Joint Hypertrophy?
Remember, I mentioned earlier in this article that I like to joke around about the “sounds” that people hear. The reason I joke about it is because I tell my cervical “neck” patients that one of the first things that my new patients tell me is that they don’t hear those grinding, popping, and clicking sounds anymore.
I tell my neck pain and arm and hand pain patients that the 3 things my new patients see usually before they get relief from their pain is: 1. Better and easier range of motion. 2. Better and deeper sleep. 3. Less sounds in their neck.
How do Dr. Currie’s Treatments Help with Facet Joint Hypertrophy?
I want to be very clear. Facet joint hypertrophy comes from degenerative disc disease and is a form of arthritis. Once the facet joints are enlarged, they stay that way. I can’t change the size of the facet joints and neither can other doctors. Some surgeons will go in and “clean up” the area but I have treated many, many patients who had their stenosis cleaned up before they sought out my care.
Arthritis is arthritis. When a joint is enlarged, it is that way. Anyone with arthritis in their knuckles can surely understand that concept. However, joint separation and inflammation reduction are quite possible and that is what I have done for years now with great success for many patients.
I perform disc rehydration treatments with my patients to increase disc space height and relieve pressure off of the joints and nerves. The treatments I perform help in the following ways:
1. When the joints are freed up, patients can turn their heads better and easier. I have seen patients go from very limited and painful range of motion (40 to 45 degrees rotation) to normal pain free range of motion (80-90 degrees rotation) in as little as 1-2 treatments.
2. The brainstem houses part of the nervous system called the mesencephalon. The mesencephalon is where the sleep centers are housed. When people have pressure on their brainstem, it can cause them to have restless sleep. When patients go through my protocol, they usually report much improved quality of sleep and a state of restfulness.
3. My protocol hydrates worn out, degenerated discs. In doing so, the facet joints can have some separation and glide instead of being jammed and chronically grinding. When the joints can glide, instead of grinding, they pop and click much less.
The popping, clicking, and grinding sounds may have not turned your world upside down at this point but what about 2 – 5 years from now when they have enlarged even more and are causing anterolisthesis or retrolisthesis?
There is no need to go on suffering if you are experiencing pain from facet joint hypertrophy. My program is 100% natural and has a high satisfaction rate. Patients travel from all around the world to receive my care.
The “sounds” in your neck are not a joking matter. They are a sign that there is a serious degenerative process going on that needs to be addressed.
Health is Happiness,
Dr. Keith Currie