Facetogenic Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment

Facetogenic pain is pain that is caused by the degeneration of the vertebral facet joint(s) in the spine. In a normally functioning spine, the individual vertebrae in the neck and back are connected by cartilage-coated vertebral joints, which are known as facet joints. These joints not only stabilize the vertebrae, but also allow articulation and the flexibility that we expect from our spine. However, like all joints in the body, the facet joints are susceptible to wear and tear as we age. Over the years, the cartilage in these joints can deteriorate, causing the vertebrae to grind together. Facetogenic pain is a byproduct of this deterioration. Additionally, bone-on-bone contact can cause muscle inflammation and the development of osteophytes (bone spurs), which are the body’s natural defense against loss of bone mass.

Symptoms and diagnosis

In order to treat facetogenic pain, the spine specialist will typically first complete a review of the patient’s medical history, conduct a physical examination and may refer the patient to a technician for an MRI or CT scan. Even still, facet disease can be extremely difficult to diagnose because the extent of degeneration is not necessarily representative of the amount of pain an individual experiences. For some patients, extreme degeneration is completely asymptomatic, while others experience crippling facetogenic pain from virtually no deterioration.

That being said, facetogenic pain is just one symptom of facet deterioration. Others include:

  • Unilateral back or neck pain
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness – especially in the morning
  • Pain that radiates along a nerve
  • Tenderness at the deteriorated joint
  • Pain that worsens when the individual bends or twists

Minimally invasive treatment

At Laser Spine Institute, one way in which we manage facetogenic pain is with a minimally invasive procedure known as facet thermal ablation. During this outpatient procedure, our orthopedists clean out the facet joint in a procedure that is structurally similar to a root canal and then deaden the nearby nerves. This procedure doesn’t “cure” arthritis, but by deadening the nerve in the joint, it removes the source of the patient’s chronic pain. To learn more about this procedure and our other treatments, contact Laser Spine Institute today.