What is facet disease?

Facet disease, also called spinal osteoarthritis, facet arthritis or facet joint syndrome, is degenerative arthritis that affects the facet joints. The facet joints exist in between individual vertebrae, and healthy facet joints allow the spine move smoothly. Facet joints also inhibit certain motions that would injure the important nerve tissue housed inside the spine. Due to our dependence on the facet joints to support almost constant movement and a steady, upright posture, these joints are prone to wear down over time. Any degenerative changes in the facet joints may be considered facet disease.

Patients suffering from facet disease may experience sharp pains in the back during movement or sudden stiffness and difficulty moving the spine. If you have experienced these symptoms regularly, you should consult your physician about determining the cause of your pain and finding a treatment option to relieve your pain and increase your mobility.

Symptoms of facet disease

Facet disease can occur in the cervical (upper) region of the spine, the thoracic (middle) region or the lumbar (lower) region. A variety of factors contribute to this condition, including age, gender, obesity, genetic predisposition and lifestyle. Aging appears to be the dominant factor in the progression of facet joint degenerative disease. As the body ages, the vertebrae compress under body weight gain and repetitive motion. The compression of the vertebrae creates pressure on the facet joints and slowly begins to deteriorate the joints.

Symptoms of facet disease can include the following:

  • Throbbing
  • Tenderness
  • Curvature of the spine
  • Aching
  • Locking of the joints
  • Crepitus, a crunching sensation of bone rubbing against bone

These symptoms can be an indication of the severity of your condition. For example, tenderness in the joints might signify a milder version of facet disease than experiencing crepitus in the joints. You should consult your physician for an accurate diagnosis of your condition. Once you determine the cause and severity of your facet disease, you can begin to find a treatment option that fits your needs.

Treatment options for facet disease

As with any degenerative spine disease, conservative therapy can be an effective treatment option for mind forms of this condition. Gentle exercise and stretching may help maintain mobility. With a physician’s permission, try activities like elliptical training, swimming, walking or mild yoga. Anti-inflammatory steroid injections can also help ease the pain of degenerative arthritis of the spine.

If you have tried conservative management of symptoms but feel that facet disease continues to impede your life, Laser Spine Institute may be able to help. We offer minimally invasive surgery to help treat facet disease by removing the arthritis from the joints to reduce pain and restore mobility. Our minimally invasive procedures, such as facet joint ablation or facet joint denervation, are performed through a small incision of about 1-inch in length.

Our procedures offer a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery. For more information about our minimally invasive surgery and the types of treatment available to you, please contact our Care Team. We are here to help you find the treatment option that will help you return to your active lifestyle.