Facet syndrome and aging

Facet syndrome is a spine condition in which the facet joints of the spine gradually lose their protective cartilage covering.

The facet joints in the spine are found between the vertebrae and are responsible for allowing the vertebrae to hinge and bend. In order for the spine to bend without deteriorating the facet joints over the years, each joint is covered in a thick layer of cartilage. However, over time this cartilage cover can begin to deteriorate and leave the facet joint susceptible to damage.

This deterioration results from years of bending, twisting and flexing. As the cartilage wears down over time, the joints can begin to grind against the vertebrae, which can develop in inflammation and the formation of facet syndrome, as well as other spine conditions.


Symptoms of facet syndrome

The bone-on-bone contact that may result from facet syndrome causes inflammation at the site of the affected joint. Inflammation is usually characterized by redness, pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function.

In this case, inflammation can also cause the development of bone spurs or osteophytes. Bone spurs are smooth, excess, bony growths that form near facet joints when the body perceives a weakness in the joint’s stability.

If the inflammation of facet syndrome or the resulting bone spur pinches a nearby nerve, the following symptoms may develop:

  • Localized pain at the site of compression
  • Pain that travels the entire length of the pinched nerve
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

Treatment options for facet syndrome

While the aging process, the primary risk factor for facet syndrome, cannot be reversed, its effects can often be managed through conservative, nonsurgical treatments methods.

Many physicians will recommend a series of conservative treatment as the first step toward finding pain relief — and for many patients, this is an effective option. Conservative treatments can include:

  • Pain medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Stretches
  • Weight loss
  • Chiropractic care
  • Corticosteroid injections

These treatments often provide significant relief after several months of treatment. However, patients who do not respond to conservative treatment may be recommended for spine surgery.

If this is your situation, consider the minimally invasive procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Our procedures offer shorter recovery periods^ than traditional open spine surgery.

Contact us today for a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.