Facet syndrome: risk factors for developing this condition

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Facet syndrome occurs when the cartilage that lines the spinal facet joints wears down, causing the joints to become inflamed. This can lead to aches, pains and stiffness as well as the potential for nerve compression that can cause radiating symptoms.

The primary factor associated with facet syndrome is unavoidable — age. While there is still research on what exactly causes facet joint syndrome, the drying out of cartilage that comes with the natural aging process is a main contributor. While no one can prevent getting older, there are other lifestyle-associated risk factors that can negatively affect the health of the spine and increase the chances of developing this condition.

Risk factors for facet syndrome you can avoid

The spine is responsible for supporting the weight of the upper body, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on spinal anatomy, especially the joints and discs. Anything that adds to the pressure being placed on the spine can speed up the degeneration that leads to conditions like facet syndrome. This can include the following:

  • Carrying extra body weight
  • Poor posture and improper lifting technique
  • Engaging in high-impact sports
  • Traumatic injury
  • An overly sedentary lifestyle

Additionally, smoking, poor nutrition and excessive alcohol consumption are facet syndrome risk factors because they can decrease blood flow and the replenishment of important nutrients to joint cartilage. If any of these risk factors apply to you, work with your doctor to make the appropriate lifestyle changes that can potentially prevent this condition from developing.

Treatment options for facet syndrome

People who are diagnosed with this condition usually begin with a course of conservative, nonsurgical treatments prescribed by their doctor to manage symptoms. Conservative treatments often include pain medications, hot/cold therapy, physical therapy, massage or other options. In many cases, lifestyle changes such as posture improvement, weight management, quitting smoking and avoiding high-impact activities may also be recommended.

However, if symptoms persist after months of conservative treatment, your physician may recommend spine surgery. If this is your situation, we encourage you to contact Laser Spine Institute and learn about our safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^ We provide minimally invasive spine surgery that can treat facet syndrome on an outpatient basis using a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques.

Learn more by contacting our team today. We are happy to offer a review of your MRI or CT scan at no cost* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.