The facet joints which lie between and behind adjacent vertebrae allow us to bend, extend and rotate our spine. Due to the dynamic nature of the sport and the variety of tennis shots which one has to perform tennis players are required to move their spines in multiple directions on the tennis court. Often tennis players will push their upper and lower backs to the extremes of movement in order to generate the necessary power and momentum needed to produce the desired shot. In particular the tennis serve which combines rotation, side flexion and extension movement places tremendous pressure on the facet joints in the lower back. Research has shown that lateral forces acting on the lower back are up to eight times greater during the service motion than they are during running. In tennis players who lack the necessary conditioning (strength and mobility) in their backs to cope with these demands facet joint injuries can occur.
Tennis players with Facet joint dysfunction will complain of localised pain in the area of the injured joint(s) which may or may not refer into the buttock or groin. Movements into extension are often painful as the facet joints are most compressed in this position.
Treatment for facet joint dysfunction may consist of a combination of manual therapy techniques, including spinal mobilisation and manipulation, massage techniques to alleviate any associated muscle tension and acomprehensive exercise rehabilitation program to build lower and upper back strength and improve spinal mobility.