About facet disease — overview

Facet disease, also called spinal arthritis, is a breakdown of the facet joints, which are located behind the spinal vertebrae, linking them together. The function of these joints allow for the range of motion and flexibility in the spine and are vital to any movement that requires the back to bend or twist, such as leaning forward or turning to look behind yourself.

It is estimated that the average spine undergoes more than one million bending, twisting and turning motions each year. As a result of this continual wear and tear on the facet joints and their protective cartilage, conditions like facet disease develop. You can educate yourself further on why facet joints are prone to degeneration by reviewing our facet disease causes page.

Facet disease symptoms

Common symptoms of deteriorating facet joints include:

  • Pain in the affected joint and nearby regions of the neck or back
  • Stiffness and inflexibility
  • Creaking and popping sensations, known as crepitus

Other symptoms of facet disease are generally associated with nerve compression and are felt in different areas of the neck or back, depending upon the affected vertebrae. These symptoms generally include pain, stiffness and tenderness. For example, if the breakdown occurs in the lower back, pain may radiate down through the buttocks, hip and upper leg. These symptoms are very similar to those associated with a fracture, torn muscle or herniated disc, so facet disease can sometimes be difficult to diagnose.

Diagnosis and treatment of facet disease

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek a proper diagnosis from a health care provider. He or she can determine whether your discomfort is caused by facet disease and recommend appropriate treatment options. Conservative treatment options can include exercise, medication, rest, hot and cold compression therapy and posture correction. Visit our facet disease treatments page for more details.

In some cases, surgery can be recommended to decompress a spinal nerve affected by facet disease, especially if conservative treatments are not effective in relieving symptoms and restoring lost range of motion after being fully explored. In this situation, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about minimally invasive spine surgery as a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery that offers our patients a shorter recovery time comparatively.^

Contact our dedicated team today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a potential candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.