Facet joint pain can be extremely detrimental to your quality of life because so many of the body’s movements rely on the facet joints, which are the hinges that link adjacent vertebrae. Facet joint pain can come from the medial branch nerves – the nerves that carry pain signals directly to and from facet joints – or pain can come from the formation of bone spurs that impinge on spinal nerve roots.
The breakdown of smooth, protective cartilage that surrounds each facet joint is the main feature of facet joint degeneration and pain. Once cartilage is gone, facet joints are left to rub directly on each other. This bone-to-bone contact can have multiple consequences. First, medial branch nerves can become irritated. Second, bone spurs can form. Although symptoms will vary from patient to patient, common reports of facet joint pain include throbbing, a constant ache, swelling, facet joint hypertrophy (enlargement of facet joints due to swelling) or a grinding sensation that results from bones rubbing together.
Pain in the facet joints, while most common in the lumbar (lower) spine, can affect any region of the spinal column. For instance, if a facet joint in your cervical region (upper neck and back) becomes diseased, you may find that you have trouble moving your head from side to side. You could also experience frequent headaches. If facet joint pain is concentrated in your thoracic (middle back) region, throbbing may surround the rib cage. In the lumbar (lower back) region, you may experience spontaneous joint locking. If you have ever bent over or arched your back and felt that you were unable to return to an upright position, this might be a symptom of facet joint osteoarthritis or other degeneration.
Often, facet joint pain can be managed by conservative, non-invasive treatment methods. However, if your discomfort becomes severe and chronic, you may want to explore surgical options. There are many types of facet joint surgery, and it is important that you choose a procedure that you feel comfortable with. Facet joint denervation is one possible option. This involves the deadening of medial branch nerves that carry pain signals to the facet joint, making it impossible for the nerves to transmit pain signals. At Laser Spine Institute, this surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis using minimally invasive techniques.
If you would like to learn more about facet joint ablation or denervation, or would simply like to discuss your symptoms of facet joint degenerative disease, the experts at Laser Spine Institute can give you more information about treatment options. Facet joint pain doesn’t have to be a fixture in your life. Contact us today for a free review of your MRI or CT scan and find out how we’ve helped tens of thousands of people find relief from neck and back pain.