facet syndrome causes and symptoms

Understanding the anatomy of the spine will help you recognize what facet syndrome is and its causes and symptoms. The spine is made up of a series of bones called vertebrae that are designed to support the body, protect the spinal cord and assist with movement. Facet joints, which allow movement between the vertebrae, are lined with a smooth cartilage that allows the bones to glide easily over each other without causing friction. When the cartilage deteriorates with age, the bones can begin to grind together, which can damage your facet joints over time and lead to discomfort and pain.

Facet syndrome causes

In most cases, facet syndrome occurs as the result of the natural wear and tear of the facet joints. As people age, the cartilage on their joints gradually breaks down, which causes the unprotected bones to rub together. Factors that can speed up the degeneration process include:

  • A traumatic injury to the spine following a vehicle crash, fall or sports-related injury
  • Smoking
  • Overexertion
  • Excess body weight

Facet syndrome symptoms

In some cases, facet syndrome is asymptomatic until deterioration becomes severe. Symptoms related to this condition are typically localized to the area of the affected joint(s) in the neck or back, and can include:

  • Persisting tenderness near the inflamed facet joint
  • Unpredictable and intermittent pain in the facet joints
  • Difficulty moving, twisting and leaning forward
  • Stiffness (especially in the morning)
  • And more

Bone spurs are a common side effect of facet syndrome, and if bone spurs develop in the spine, they might press on the spinal cord or a nerve root. This leads to muscle spasms, traveling pain, numbness and muscle weakness in the extremities. It can be difficult to distinguish signs of facet syndrome from other types of degenerative spine conditions, as pain coming from the neck and back is very common and is something everyone has likely experienced at one point in their lives. Only a medical professional can provide an accurate diagnosis on what is causing neck or back pain. There is no cure for facet syndrome, but a physician will be able to prescribe conservative (nonsurgical) remedies to regulate the pain and improve a patient’s quality of life.

If these treatment methods fail to provide relief, then surgery is usually the next option. At Laser Spine Institute, we offer a minimally invasive, outpatient surgery for the treatment of facet syndrome and other common causes of neck and back pain. To find out if you’re a candidate for our procedures, contact us today for a no-cost MRI review.*