Facet joint syndrome

Facet joint syndrome happens when your spine’s facet joints become worn out. These joints link the spine, enabling movement and flexibility while keeping the spine rigid enough to protect the spinal cord. The end of each joint has a lining of cartilage and joint fluid so they can move smoothly against each other. Because these joints are in constant motion, they undergo significant wear.

The natural aging process can cause the cartilage to deteriorate, causing joint inflammation and stiffness. This condition can be painful and debilitating. Even grocery shopping, cooking a meal or working in the yard can become too difficult to do anymore. Learning more about facet joint syndrome, and the treatment options available through the following article, can offer you the best chance of finding pain relief that can get you back to the life you’ve been missing out on.

Symptoms of facet joint syndrome

Also known as facet joint disease, facet joint syndrome can affect the spine at any point from top to bottom. However, it is more common for the joints to wear out in the neck and lower back because these regions require the most movement while supporting the most weight. Visit our facet disease and facet arthritis pages for more details.

Although everyone must deal with some degree of degeneration of the facet joints, there are other causes that contribute to facet joint syndrome. Traumatic injury, fractures, repetitive movements and high-impact sports can irritate the joints and protective cartilage, causing them to breakdown. Lifestyle factors like smoking tobacco and excess weight gain can also accelerate joint degeneration.

In addition to local pain, symptoms can include:

  • Joint inflammation
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Decreased spinal mobility and flexibility
  • Radiating symptoms to the upper or lower body, often caused by a bone spur

How to treat facet joint syndrome symptoms

If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for any length of time, talk with your doctor. He or she will be able to use methods like an MRI or a diagnostic facet injection to determine if facet joint syndrome is the cause of your back pain. Upon diagnosis, most doctors recommend an initial course of conservative treatment including pain medication, chiropractic care and physical therapy.

Surgery will usually be considered if these methods don’t bring desired relief, usually after a period of several weeks or months. The board-certified+ surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive surgery that uses smaller incisions and offers a shorter recovery time^ compared to traditional open back surgery. To learn more about the advantages of our outpatient surgery, contact us today.

To treat facet joint syndrome, a facet thermal ablation can be performed in conjunction with a decompression procedure using a laser to relieve painful nerves in the facet joint. Find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our surgical procedures by reaching out to our team today for a free MRI review.*