How to recognize facet syndrome

Facet syndrome is a type of osteoarthritis that affects the facet joints of the spine. The facet joints link the vertebrae and enable fluid bending and twisting motions within the spine. As we age, the cartilage that lines these joints can wear away, causing vertebrae to rub directly against each other. If you’re concerned about facet syndrome and whether or not you have this condition, it helps to learn about some of the symptoms it can cause so you can learn to recognize it.

Facet syndrome symptoms

Symptoms of facet syndrome will partly depend on which area of the spine is affected. For example, inflammation in the neck area (cervical spine) may affect the shoulders, arms and hands. By contrast, facet syndrome in the lower back (lumbar spine) may affect the buttocks, thighs, legs and feet. Common symptoms of facet syndrome include:

  • Localized aches and pain
  • Neck or back stiffness
  • Difficulty bending or twisting
  • Trouble standing up straight
  • Headaches

Additionally, if joint inflammation causes a nearby spinal nerve to become compressed, you may experience numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, cramping or spasms along the entire nerve pathway.

What to do if you have symptoms of facet syndrome

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to consult with a physician to receive a diagnosis. There are many different types of spinal conditions that can cause similar symptoms, so a diagnostic test is generally required to determine the exact condition causing your pain. From there, your physician can recommend a course of treatment.

Many individuals who have been diagnosed with facet syndrome are able to effectively manage their symptoms using a combination of conservative treatments, including pain medications, steroid injections, hot/cold compresses and physical therapy. However, if your symptoms are more severe and persist for weeks or months, you may need to consider surgery as your next step.

Laser Spine Institute specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and has performed more than 100,000 procedures to help patients with facet syndrome and other spinal conditions. If you would like to find out if you are a candidate for outpatient surgery at Laser Spine Institute, we can provide you with a free MRI review.* Contact us today to get started.