New MRI Study Shows Connection Between Back Pain And Facet Joint Effusion And Ligament Edema

Facet Joint Effusion, Interspinal Ligament Oedema Are Major Sources of Lower Back Pain

NEW YORK — September 25, 2008 — New magnetic resonance (MR) techniques show that facet joint effusion and interspinal ligament oedema are major sources of lower back pain, according to a study in the October issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Nefise Cagla Tarhan, MD, Baskent University Hospital, Ankara, Turkey and Alanya Research Center in Antalya, Turkey, and colleagues investigated whether degenerative posterior paraspinal changes are a cause of lower back pain.

The study included 372 patients (mean age, 51.2 y) with lower back pain and 249 healthy controls (mean age, 49.3). All patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) accompanied by short inversion time inversion recovery (STIR) sequences. All findings were grouped according to age and sex.

“The most common imaging findings in patients with nonradicular lower back pain were soft tissue changes, mainly facet joint effusion, 85.5%, and interspinal ligament swelling, 80.6%,” said Dr. Tarhan, MD.

“Soft tissue changes are important in the understanding of lower back pain and prevention and treatment options should focus more on these changes. A lot of patients come to me with complaints of bad, lower back pain; it is a very common community problem,” said Dr. Tarhan.

“With this new MR technique, prevention and treatment options for lower back pain can focus more on soft tissue degenerative changes that cause facet joint effusion and interspinal ligament swelling.”

SOURCE: American Roentgen Ray Society