Thoracic facet joint syndrome

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

The facet joint is the connector between the vertebrae and allows each vertebra to pivot and move. Because the thoracic spine is significantly less mobile than the cervical (neck) or lumbar (lower back) region, facet damage is less likely in this area. The thoracic spine mainly serves to support the rib cage and the torso, allowing proper posture for the rest of the spine.

Though movement in the thoracic spine is less common than other areas of the spine, movement and deterioration does still occur. Facet joint syndrome occurs 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.

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
  • And others

One of the most common causes 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 medications, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy and behavior modification techniques. Your physician can help you find a treatment option after reviewing your condition and medical history. You should always consult your physician before starting or changing any treatment plan.

If conservative treatment does not give you the pain relief you need, you should consider the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive surgery can help treat facet disease by reducing the inflammation in the joint and deadening the surrounding nerves to help prevent future nerve compression and pain. Any additional damage to the spine may be treated with a minimally invasive decompression surgery, though some severe damage may require a stabilization surgery.

Because we have a minimally invasive approach to the spine, our patients can experience a safer and effective procedure with a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of infection than traditional open back surgery. Take the next step toward your pain relief by contacting Laser Spine Institute today and requesting a review of your MRI report or CT scan.