Facet syndrome is defined as pain associated with the degeneration of the facet joints. Facet joints are the sliding joints allowing the vertebrae of the spine slip over one another without losing contact. Facet syndrome is a form of osteoarthritis. It is most commonly experienced by people age 50 and older. It can occur at any level of the spine, but is most common in the flexible, weight-bearing cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions. During the aging process, joint articular cartilage deteriorates causing inflammation. Inflammation causes the joint lining called synovium, to decrease its ability to produce the lubricating synovial fluid increasing cartilage breakdown. Joint inflammation irritates the small nerves that supply the joint’s capsule and produces the aching sensation characteristic of facet syndrome.
How Facet Syndrome is Diagnosed
If your physician suspects you might have facet syndrome, he or she will order one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis. The goal is to determine whether degeneration of the facet joints has occurred, and if so, to narrow down the location of the deterioration. These tests can include:
- CT scan
- Intra-articular joint injections
- Medial branch nerve block injections
Treatment for Facet Syndrome
Initially, physicians treat pain and other symptoms associated with facet syndrome with pain medication, behavior modification, physical therapy, exercise, and other conservative methods. More radical techniques, such as radiofrequency neurotomy (“deadening” the joint nerve) and corticosteroid injections, might also be attempted. However, if these treatments prove ineffective, surgery may be indicated. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using innovative, endoscopic techniques may provide safe, effective relief.