Facet joint osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis, is a condition that affects the facet joints of the spine. It can make everyday movements feel impossibly painful. While arthritis is a broad term that can be applied to more than 100 different joint diseases, osteoarthritis is by far the most common form of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis of the facet joints goes by several other terms such as facet joint arthrosis and facet joint arthropathy. Often, osteoarthritis in the spine is confused with either rheumatoid arthritis or degenerative disc disease. It is helpful for a patient to learn the distinctions between these conditions.
- Osteoarthritis, also called “wear-and-tear arthritis,” deals with facet joint degeneration – more specifically, the decay of cartilage on facet joints. Cartilage is responsible for smooth joint movement, so once it wears away, pain and stiffness are not far behind.
- Spinal rheumatoid arthritis involves the inflammation of facet joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease; more specifically, the body’s immune cells are attacking the synovial membrane on facet joints. When under attack, the synovial membrane becomes inflamed and painful.
- Degenerative disc disease is a progressive breakdown of intervertebral discs that are located between the vertebrae. When these discs become thin and compressed, the space between facet joints is reduced, which can limit proper joint function.
While the causes of many types of arthritis are relatively unknown, we do know that osteoarthritis involves factors like age, genetic predisposition, obesity, and gender. Common symptoms of facet joint osteoarthritis include throbbing and tenderness, diminished flexibility, limited range of motion, and abnormal stiffness of the joints. If you think you may be suffering from facet joint osteoarthritis, see your primary care physician. He or she will complete a full physical exam, asking about your symptoms, when the symptoms began, your medical history, and your family’s medical history. Your physician may also send you for an MRI or CT scan.
If you would like to find out more about treatments for facet joint osteoarthritis, contact Laser Spine Institute (LSI). We have developed several revolutionary endoscopic procedures that have helped tens of thousands of people worldwide rediscover a life without pain. When you contact us, we’ll be happy to tell you more about our outpatient procedures and provide you with a free review of your MRI or CT scan.