Facet disease FAQ — frequently asked questions answered by Laser Spine Institute

At Laser Spine Institute, we’ve identified several frequently asked questions that are extremely important to patients with facet disease. If you think you may have facet disease — or have already been diagnosed with the condition — the following FAQ can help explain everything you need to know about facet joint osteoarthritis.

Q. What is facet disease (spinal osteoarthritis)?
A. Facet disease, otherwise known as spinal osteoarthritis, is a condition that occurs when facet joints between the vertebrae start to degenerate. This typically happens in the lower (lumbar) section of the spine, although it can also develop in the central (thoracic) or upper (cervical) section as well.

Q. What causes facet disease?
A. Facet disease often develops as the result of ordinary wear and tear that occurs over time, coupled with tissue breakdown that happens naturally with age. However, sudden trauma, being overweight or repeated motion (such as continual heavy lifting at work) can also place additional stress on the facet joints.

Q. What are the symptoms?
A. Facet disease sometimes causes several uncomfortable symptoms, including:

  • Stiffness or soreness
  • Muscle spams
  • Pain at the site of the joint degeneration
  • The development of bone spurs, which can compress the spinal cord and nerve roots in the spine
  • Pain that radiates along a nerve root path

Q. What are some treatment options?
A. Treatments for facet disease are typically conservative in nature; the most common include anti-inflammatory and pain medications, facet joint injections, physical therapy and exercise, chiropractic treatment and rest. These treatments can often relieve patients’ discomfort enough that they are able to return to their daily routines.

Q. Will I need surgery?
A. Most patients are able to treat their facet disease with conservative options, but some patients do eventually opt for surgery. Typically, patients are instructed to try several weeks of conservative treatment before considering an operation. However, if non-surgical treatments don’t provide enough relief during this time, a facet joint ablation or similar procedure may be suggested.

For more information about facet disease — or to discuss any questions that weren’t answered in this FAQ — contact Laser Spine Institute today.