Facet joint arthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or degenerative arthritis, affects millions of people around the world. Because it is a degenerative disease, individuals over the age of 50 are especially vulnerable. Arthritis itself is a broad term that can be applied to a range of conditions involving the body’s joints. Facet joint arthritis, however, refers specifically to the joints of the spine that connect vertebrae together.
Facet joints are surrounded by cartilage, a soft connective tissue that is vulnerable to wear and tear. As the cartilage degenerates (a condition known as facet joint arthrosis or facet joint osteoarthritis), the joints are no longer able to hinge easily and painlessly. Simple activities like walking, sitting, gardening, or throwing a football can become impossible.
Symptoms of facet joint arthritis may depend on what type of arthritis you have and what region of the spine the degenerating joints reside in. As a general rule, you should be alert for pain in the neck and back, joint stiffness, inflammation, facet joint hypertrophy, or an uncomfortable “crunching” feeling, which is the friction of bone moving against bone because the protective cartilage has worn away.
If you do exhibit these symptoms of facet joint arthritis, you may want to consider a conservative course of treatment. Under a doctor’s care and recommendations, try working with resistance bands to increase neck and back strength, or just move your head from side to side. Bending forwards and backwards also can help increase mobility. Keep muscles limber by doing small arm circles. Range of motion can be maintained by simply tossing a ball to your dog, playing a round of golf, or doing gentle yoga. Again, please consult with a doctor before trying any exercise program.
Meditation can help release tension that could be making joint movement all the more painful. Since body weight can have an effect on how much pressure your joints are forced to sustain, gentle aerobic exercises can build strength while reducing body mass. Choose low-impact activities, such as swimming or walking, that will not aggravate facet joint degeneration.
If the above treatments do not bring you relief or if you find your condition is becoming more severe, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI) to find out more about our state-of-the-art, minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures. Contact us today for a free review of your MRI or CT scan, and for details about facet joint surgery.