Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet joint syndrome is an arthritis-like condition of the spine that can cause significant back and neck pain. It is caused by degeneration of the joints between the bones of the spine, known as facet joints. As the cartilage inside these joints breaks down, it becomes inflamed, sending pain signals to nearby nerve endings.

What You Need To Know About Facet Joint Syndrome

What Is Facet Joint Syndrome?

The joints connecting the bones of the spine are known as facet joints. They help to stabilize the spine and limit excessive motion. The facet joints are lined with cartilage and are surrounded by a lubricating capsule that enables the vertebrae to bend and twist.

When the cartilage inside the facet joint breaks down and becomes inflamed and painful, this is known as facet joint syndrome. If the affected joint is in the neck, it may cause headaches and difficulty moving the head. If it is in the back, it may cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, or thighs.

Schedule an appointment with a Resurgens physician to get moving again.

What Causes Facet Joint Syndrome?

Injury, overuse, and normal aging can cause the facet joints to become swollen and damaged. The breakdown of the joints may be accelerated by disease, genetic predisposition, or obesity. As the cartilage wears away, the bones of the spine don't glide past one another smoothly, and this makes it hard for the spine to bend and twist properly. Facet joint syndrome may occur in both men and women between the ages of 40 and 70 and in those prone to arthritis. It also may develop in people who have had a spine injury.

Facet Syndrome Symptoms

The symptoms of facet joint syndrome can vary depending on which part of the spine is affected. The pain is often a dull ache in the low back directly over the spine that can spread to the buttocks. When the neck is affected, it can be felt in the shoulders and back of the skull. You may have trouble turning your head and have to rotate your entire body to look left or right. You may find it hard to stand up from a chair. It may be hard to stand up straight, causing a hunched walking posture. If the facet joint becomes too swollen and enlarged, it may block the openings through which the nerve roots pass, causing a pinched nerve. This condition is called facet hypertrophy.

How is Facet Joint Syndrome Diagnosed?

In order to make a positive diagnosis of facet joint syndrome, your Resurgens physician will take a thorough medical history and perform a physical exam. The diagnosis may involve injecting an anesthetic and an anti-inflammatory in the joint. If this provides immediate relief, facet joint syndrome is the most likely diagnosis. Imaging, such as X-ray, CT, or MRI, may be ordered to check for related spine problems that could contribute to the condition.

Facet Syndrome Treatment

A range of treatment options is available for facet joint syndrome. Your Resurgens physician will create a treatment plan tailored to your unique situation.

Non-Surgical Facet Syndrome Treatment

Non-surgical treatment of facet joint syndrome can provide pain relief and an improved quality of life. These treatments may include the injection of steroids into the facet joints, anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy. Exercise and lifestyle changes to improve stress on the back can also help alleviate pain.

Surgical Facet Syndrome Treatment

In cases where more conservative measures are not effective, surgery may be indicated. Two surgical options include rhizotomy - the burning the anterior or posterior spinal nerve roots — and spine fusion surgery.

Getting the best facet syndrome treatment starts with a visit to Resurgens Spine Center. Schedule an appointment with a Resurgens physician today.

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