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Facet syndrome

If you think you may be suffering from the symptoms of facet syndrome, it is important to understand the causes of and treatment options for this degenerative spinal condition. The facet joints, which connect the vertebrae, play a crucial role in the spine, giving us the ability to bend and twist with ease. However, facet syndrome can potentially reduce the spine’s flexibility and affect our ability to function normally in our everyday lives.

Definition of facet syndrome

Facet syndrome can also be referred to as facet disease and osteoarthritis of the spine. It occurs when the cartilage that allows vertebrae to glide smoothly across each other during movement wears down to the point that bone is rubbing against bone. When this occurs, painful symptoms can be the result, and the development of bone spurs also becomes a possibility. This condition is most common in the areas of the spine that are most flexible – the cervical (upper) spine and lumbar (lower) spine.

How a facet syndrome diagnosis occurs

Before a facet syndrome diagnosis can be made, your physician will want to review your medical history and perform a full physical exam. You may also be asked about your family medical history to see if you have a genetic predisposition to osteoarthritis. An X-ray, MRI or CT scan may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis, and a facet injection is sometimes used to pinpoint the exact location of the issue.

Cause of facet syndrome

The most prominent cause of facet syndrome is the aging process and the years of wear and tear that the facet joints experience while allowing for the spine to twist and bend. Being overweight can hasten the onset of facet syndrome by putting undue strain on the spine and forcing it to work harder to maintain proper alignment, posture and balance. High-impact sports such as football and ice hockey, or jobs that require frequent lifting and bending, can also speed the development of facet syndrome.

Facet syndrome symptoms

Facet syndrome can produce symptoms that are similar to those that appear when other spinal conditions are present, making diagnosis difficult. Localized pain, inflammation and tenderness in the joint where the bones are rubbing together are common symptoms, as well as difficulty twisting and back or neck stiffness, particularly in the morning. The development of bone spurs due to facet syndrome can cause additional symptoms including radiating pain in the arms, legs, hips, hands and feet.

Treatment options for facet syndrome

There are conservative and alternative options that can be effective in treating facet syndrome, especially if implemented consistently for several weeks. Rest, pain medications, hot/cold therapy, physical therapy and facet joint blocks are all conservative treatments that can be used to reduce the symptoms associated with this condition. Alternative treatments, such as chiropractic care, massage therapy and acupuncture, may also produce relief.

Facet syndrome surgery

Conservative and alternative treatment options are usually successful in treating facet syndrome symptoms and often will help you to retain or regain flexibility in your spine. However, when these treatments prove ineffective, it may be time to consider your surgical options.

At Laser Spine Institute in Cincinnati, we specialize in advanced outpatient surgeries that treat a wide variety of spinal conditions, including facet syndrome. To learn more about our minimally invasive surgeries that require a less than 1-inch incision, contact Laser Spine Institute today. We will provide you with a no-cost MRI review* to see if you are a candidate for our procedures.