Overview of facet disease in the back

Facet disease in the back is a common form of osteoarthritis, or arthritis of the spine, that develops with the natural wear of the spine. This condition is most common in the lumbar region of the spine (the lower back), but it can occur between any vertebrae in the spinal column. This condition involves the swelling and inflammation of the facet joints in the spine, which allow the vertebrae to bend.

When the facet joints swell from arthritis and other facet disease causes, movement of the vertebrae is limited and painful. In some cases, the facet joints may even swell and press against a nearby nerve, resulting in chronic pain and limited mobility. To learn about the causes and treatment options for this condition, read the following article.

Osteoarthritis as a cause of facet disease

Osteoarthritis, also known as arthritis of the spine, can occur in any weight-bearing joint in the body. Facet disease in the back occurs when the cartilage that coats the facet joints slowly wears away, eventually leading to bone-on-bone contact. When this condition develops, the joint becomes sore and stiff, causing a noticeable loss of mobility.

Additionally, bone spurs may form naturally as the body’s response to help stabilize the spine. These bone spurs can increase painful symptoms when they come into contact with a nerve near the joint. Other symptoms associated with facet disease in the back include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Pain in the area around the deteriorated joint
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Stiffness first thing in the morning (during early stages)

These symptoms usually can be related to inflammation or arthritic and degenerative changes and are associated with activities such as bending, twisting, lifting or sitting for long periods of time.

Treatment options for facet disease

For individuals diagnosed with facet disease in the back, there are a number of treatments that may be recommended depending on several factors, such as age, overall health and the cause of the facet disease. In many instances, conservative treatment is first recommended to reduce pressure on the pinched nerve near the facet joint.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the application of heat or ice, low-impact exercises, muscle relaxants, physical therapy and stretching techniques are all common methods of nonsurgical therapy. Additionally, many people turn to deep tissue massage, chiropractic care and acupuncture as alternative forms of treatment.

In the event that the symptoms of facet disease in your back continue after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the advantages of undergoing one of our outpatient procedures. Our minimally invasive spine surgery offers a lower risk of complication and a shorter recovery period^ compared to traditional open back surgery.

Patients with facet disease can undergo a minimally invasive facet thermal ablation, which reduces the swelling in the joints and deadens the surrounding nerves to help relieve pain. This procedure is performed most often in conjunction with a decompression to relieve painful nerves in the facet joint. For more information about the advantages of our minimally invasive spine surgery and to find out if you are a potential candidate for our procedures, reach out to our team and ask for a free MRI review.*