Causes of Facet Syndrome — The Role of Excess Body Weight

The most common causes of facet syndrome can be traced to degenerative changes that occur within the spinal anatomy. However, several factors, including excess body weight, are known to contribute to and aggravate the condition, as well as hasten its onset. The reason is simple: Extra pounds can unduly strain the spine, which must continually work to maintain proper body mechanics, including alignment, posture and balance.

The role of excess body weight

The facet joints serve the important function of connecting adjacent spinal vertebrae to provide the body with stability, flexibility and a wide range of motion. Excess body weight, particularly in the abdominal region, can pull the spine forward, causing an individual to lean backward unnaturally in order to be able to maintain an upright posture (this phenomenon can also occur during pregnancy, albeit temporarily). Over time, the resulting forward lumbar curvature can disproportionately stress the spinal components. As a result, the facet joints can become overburdened and their natural age-related breakdown can be accelerated.

Furthermore, if an individual has an existing asymptomatic spinal condition, such as the beginning stages of facet syndrome, significant weight gain could potentially exert enough stress on the spine to cross the pain threshold and create uncomfortable symptoms. It’s important to note that once pain manifests, tissue breakdown and spinal degeneration have already occurred.

Of course, facet syndrome can and does develop in individuals who are not overweight. However, carrying excess body weight can both exacerbate low back pain and lead to the development of this degenerative condition. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy body weight, which can not only help protect the spine from excess wear and tear and injury, but also can facilitate overall health and wellness.

Seeking medical help

Regardless of the causes of facet syndrome, if the resulting neck or back pain is unresponsive to rest and over-the-counter pain medications or persists for more than a week, it’s best to seek the advice of a physician, who can assess the effects of excess body weight and also recommend an appropriate treatment plan, which in advanced cases might include surgery. For information about minimally invasive alternatives to traditional open spine procedures, please contact Laser Spine Institute.