Facet joint surgery can take many forms, but most facet joint surgeries are aimed at relieving nerve compression or irritation.
Facet joints connect individual vertebrae on the top and bottom and also help the vertebrae slide and pivot against one another. Each time we bend over, arch our backs or twist from side to side, our facet joints are playing a role. It’s easy to see how, after years and years of wear and tear, the cartilage of these joints could start to erode – a condition called facet joint osteoarthritis. When cartilage deteriorates, raw facet joint surfaces are forced to rub against each other. This increased bone friction on facet joints can lead to irritation of medial branch nerves, the nerves that carry pain signals directly to the brain from a dysfunctional facet joint.
There is another painful consequence to cartilage loss on facet joints, and that’s the formation of bone spurs. Bone spurs, or osteophytes, are excess bone growths that the body produces as a reaction to excess friction. Bone spurs themselves do not hurt, but if they impinge on nerve roots or the spinal cord, they can cause neck pain, back pain and pain that radiates to the limbs. Tingling, numbness and muscle weakness also can occur.
Now that we’ve discussed two culprits in facet joint pain, here are some surgical approaches to treating that pain:
- Facet joint denervation or facet joint ablation – This facet joint surgery deadens the medial branch nerves that carry sensory signals to and from a facet joint. Since medial branch nerves are not central to the function of a facet joint, these nerves can be safely eliminated, similar to how oral nerve endings are eliminated during a root canal.
- Bone spur removal – The removal of bone spurs during facet joint surgery is often the key to releasing trapped nerve roots and reducing painful, debilitating symptoms.
Laser Spine Institute performs both of the above procedures on an outpatient basis. During our procedures, lasers and other micro-surgical tools are fed into a small tube, which is inserted through an incision that accesses the damaged portion of the spine. Through this tube, Laser Spine Institute’s surgeons can vaporize medial branch nerves (facet thermal ablation) and carefully remove bone spurs.
If you would like to find out more about the minimally invasive facet joint surgery options offered at Laser Spine Institute, such as facet thermal ablation or bone spur removal, contact us today. Our innovative, minimally invasive procedures have helped tens of thousands of people find relief from neck and back pain. Let us review your MRI or CT scan so that we can determine if our procedures are right for you.