Thoracic facet joint syndrome

Thoracic facet joint syndrome can occur when the facet joints in the thoracic (middle) spinal region wear down due to age or general wear and tear over the years.

The facet joints link the vertebrae and allow each vertebra to pivot and move. Because the thoracic spine is significantly more rigid than the cervical (upper) or lumbar (lower) region, facet damage is less likely in this area. The thoracic spine is fixed to the rib cage and the torso, which helps support the rest of the spine.

Although the thoracic region is more stable than other areas of the spine, it is still flexible enough for movement and stress to occur on the joints. Facet joint syndrome can develop when the joints lose their protective coating and become inflamed and painful. Inflammation in the thoracic facet joints can limit movement and cause radiating pain around the rib cage, chest, shoulders and arms if a spinal nerve becomes compressed or irritated.

Causes of thoracic facet joint syndrome

Pain and discomfort in the facet joints can have many causes, including:

  • Arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis
  • Inflammation
  • Poor posture
  • Traumatic injury
  • Infection

The most common underlying cause of thoracic facet joint syndrome is the natural aging process. As we grow older, the constant movement and stress placed on the spine can begin to take its toll. The facet joints are affected by the aging process through wear and tear, during which the layer of cartilage that cushions and lines the facet joints can begin to rub away. This may lead to pain and the formation of bone spurs when the exposed vertebrae rub together.

Treatments for thoracic facet joint syndrome

Patients with facet joint syndrome can often find relief through the use of pain medication, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy and lifestyle changes like improved diet, quitting smoking or posture improvement. Your doctor can help you find a treatment option after reviewing your condition and medical history. You should always consult your doctor before starting or changing any treatment plan.

If conservative treatment does not give you the pain relief you need and surgery becomes an option, you should consider the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Because we take a muscle-sparing approach to the spine, our patients can experience a safer and effective outpatient procedure with a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication than traditional open back surgery.^ Take the next step toward your pain relief by contacting Laser Spine Institute today.

When you speak to our dedicated team, you can request a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.