Facet joint treatment may be necessary when the joints in the spinal vertebrae, called facet joints, become deteriorated to the extent that they are causing back pain or stiffness. Each vertebra has two sets of facet joint surfaces, one set on the top and one set on the bottom, which help connect the spine together and allow a certain degree of flexibility. These joints are coated in cartilage and are encapsulated with a thick synovial fluid to keep the joints mobile. However, like other joints in the body, the facet joints are prone to damage or arthritis as a result of injury or the natural aging process. When this happens, a number of painful symptoms can present and facet joint treatment may become necessary.
Facet joint treatment is usually first attempted conservatively. After identifying the source of the discomfort – usually with medical imagery such as an MRI or CT scan – a doctor will typically begin to manage a patient’s pain with non-surgical techniques. These vary depending on the severity and location of the problematic facet joint, but largely include:
- Physical therapy and exercise
- Prescription or over-the-counter painkillers
- Application of heat packs and cold packs
- Chiropractic treatment
- Neck brace, back brace, and/or special pillows
Facet joint injections of numbing medicine and an anti-inflammatory cortisone (injections have the dual purpose of numbing the pain and helping doctors pinpoint the exact location of the pain source)
Occasionally, facet joint treatment will require a more permanent fix. The award-winning staff at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers a minimally invasive alternative, known as a facet thermal ablation. This laser-assisted, outpatient procedure is used to clean out the facet joints and deaden symptomatic local nerves (similar to what occurs during a root canal). To learn more about facet joint treatment options, including facet thermal ablation, and to receive a free review of your MRI or CT scan, contact LSI today.