Facet syndrome overview

Facet syndrome is a specific type of osteoarthritis that develops in the facet joints, which are located in the spine and facilitate bending and twisting. This condition most commonly develops in the cervical (upper) part of the spine, but it can also occur in the lumbar (lower) and thoracic (middle) parts of the spine as well.

As with many other joints in the body, the facet joints have a smooth, connective tissue known as cartilage that coats the ends of the bones. This cartilage can wear down over time; then adjacent bones can rub together instead of gliding smoothly against each other, creating inflammation within the joint and resulting in pain, stiffness and loss of mobility in the neck or back.

Sometimes, as the bones grind against each other, the body can create bone spurs (osteophytes) in response. These bone spurs can be asymptomatic, but they can also grow large enough to compress or irritate the nerve roots or spinal cord near the facet joints. If this happens, several additional symptoms in the extremities — such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness — might develop as a result.

Facet syndrome causes

Like all cases of osteoarthritis, facet syndrome is most attributed to natural, age-related degeneration. Because the facet joints sustain a significant amount of wear and tear throughout a person’s life, many people experience at least a mild degree of facet joint degeneration by the time they enter their 50s. This may not always be symptomatic, but it can also become progressively worse with time.

Sometimes, traumatic injuries can also accelerate degeneration in the facet joints. These can result from, for example, vehicle crashes, falls and sports activities.

Minimally invasive treatment for facet syndrome

In most cases, symptoms associated with facet syndrome can be managed using conservative treatment methods such as pain medication, behavior modification, exercise and corticosteroid injections. However, if chronic symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, surgery may be suggested. If you’ve attempted conservative therapies but haven’t found an adequate solution for your facet joint pain, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive outpatient procedure could potentially provide effective facet syndrome treatment.