Degenerative facet joints — symptoms and treatment

Degenerative facet joints result in a condition known as facet disease or facet arthritis. The facet joints, which link the vertebrae, facilitate flexibility and enable a wide range of movement, such as leaning forward and twisting. Degenerative facet joints occur when the thin layer of cartilage covering the joints breaks down, causing inflammation and pain, which may be slight to severe. Learn more about facet joints by reviewing our facet disease page.

Degenerative facet joint symptoms

Degenerative facet joints typically cause lower back pain, which may radiate to the buttocks and down the back of the upper leg. The spinal nerves are rarely affected, and for most people, the degeneration and accompanying symptoms occur gradually over time. Patients typically experience:

  • Tenderness around the inflamed joints
  • More discomfort when leaning backward than when leaning forward
  • Loss of spinal muscle flexibility
  • Recurrent pain episodes

The facet joints may deteriorate for reasons other than continual wear and tear. Poor posture, improper lifting and bending, obesity and overuse from work or sports activities can lead to joint stress and degeneration. You can educate yourself further about facet joint degeneration by reading our facet arthritis page.

Degenerative facet joint treatment options

If you are experiencing the symptoms of degenerative facet joints, contact your physician for a consultation and diagnosis. Discovering the source of your pain is the first step back to wellness. Your physician may recommend treatments such as physical therapy and the use of over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen.

Some patients may require additional treatment to find sufficient relief for their discomfort. For example, surgery is usually considered when weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring acceptable relief.

The minimally invasive outpatient surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute is an alternative to traditional open back surgery. Our state-of-the-art outpatient techniques can help you find relief from chronic pain while avoiding overnight hospitalization and the long recovery periods^ that come with traditional open back procedures. Contact us today for your no-cost MRI review* to learn if you are a candidate.