Lumbar facet joints are synovial joints in the lower back that provide stability and flexibility to the spinal vertebrae. These interlocking joints are surrounded by a thick lubricating fluid called synovial fluid, which is produced and encapsulated by a soft tissue called the synovium. The joints also are coated in cartilage to further increase their mobility. The synovium and cartilage work together to allow the joints to have a smooth range of motion that is similar to a flexible hinge.
The lumbar spine is typically comprised of five vertebrae, referred to as L1-L5, which need to be strong and stable to handle the stress placed on the lower back. To facilitate a strong bond, lumbar facet joints exist in pairs on the right and left of the vertebrae – with one set facing upward and one set facing downward – to connect adjacent vertebrae. However, because the lumbar spine supports most of the weight of the body and is also the most flexible segment, it is particularly prone to damage and deterioration. Conditions like facet disease and osteoarthritis can interfere with regular function in lumbar facet joints, causing lower back pain.
When working correctly, the L1-L5 facet joints in the lower spine work in congress with the intervertebral discs to absorb shock, allow a wide range of motion, and provide strength. Yet over time, these spinal structures are susceptible to damage. Symptoms of problematic lumbar facet joints include:
- Local back pain
- Trouble standing up straight or poor posture
- Back stiffness and soreness causing a loss of flexibility
- Other forms of radiculopathy (traveling symptoms)
- And more
A person suffering from back pain can usually manage their symptoms conservatively, with the help of a physician. Physical therapy, pain medication, and heat packs are normally all effective in staving off the pain of a damaged facet joint, but in the event that the patient does not respond to non-surgical treatments, the option of spinal surgery may be considered.
If this is your prognosis, contact the staff at Laser Spine institute (LSI) today to learn about our endoscopic spine procedures. At LSI, we use gentle lasers to clean out damaged lumbar facet joints and alleviate pain, thus helping our patients to get on with their lives. Our minimally invasive outpatient procedures can offer real pain relief without the hospitalization and lengthy rehabilitation of traditional open back surgery. Contact us for more information, and to receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan.