Facet syndrome is pain that originates within the facet joints. Facet joints are the sliding joints, which allow the vertebrae of the spine to slip over one another without losing contact. Facet joints occur in pairs on the sides of vertebrae and are synovial joints. This means they are surrounded by a thick capsule, which supplies a lubricating liquid called synovial fluid. The bone surfaces of the joints are lined with a specialized tissue called articular cartilage. Abnormalities that occur within any of the anatomical components of the facet joints can produce pain and threaten overall spinal stability.
Causes of facet syndrome
Facet syndrome is a form of arthritis, for which the root causes are unclear. What is known is that the aging process and traumatic injury can both cause articular cartilage to deteriorate. As bones of the adjacent joints begin to rub together, inflammation occurs. This inflammation causes pain, stiffness and loss of function. It is also known that people older than 50 are more likely to experience the effects of facet syndrome.
The age-related deterioration of cartilage can irritate the small nerves that innervate the joint capsule. Inflammation also promotes the development of bone spurs (osteophytes), which are bony projections that grow on the periphery of the joints. These bone spurs often remain asymptomatic, but they also might grow large enough to compress or irritate nearby nerve roots. If this happens, symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness might occur.
Minimally invasive treatment for facet syndrome
In most cases, symptoms associated with facet syndrome can be managed using conservative treatment methods like pain medication, behavior modification, exercise, corticosteroid injections and others. However, if chronic symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may be suggested. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed with advanced techniques can provide effective facet syndrome treatment.