What are my options for facet syndrome treatment to relieve joint pain?

If you have been diagnosed with facet syndrome as the source of your pain and other symptoms, you are probably wondering what your treatment options are and whether or not you will need surgery. For many people, facet syndrome treatment begins conservatively and relieves the pain and symptoms of this condition without the need for spine surgery. As you explore your treatment options, it is important to be patient and work closely with your doctor to develop the right treatment plan for you. The following information can help you make the most informed possible decision about your treatment, giving you a better chance of getting back to the quality of life you deserve.

Facet syndrome treatment — nonsurgical and surgical options to relieve joint pain

Conservative facet syndrome treatment options are nonsurgical methods that are often recommended to lessen the symptoms of facet joint disease. Facet syndrome can cause moderate to severe pain, depending on the level of joint degeneration present in the spine. Individual vertebrae are joined at the facet joints, which allow the spine to have flexibility and range of motion. Over the years, these joints lose their protective cartilage lining. Once the joint cartilage has completely worn down, bone may rub on bone, stimulating inflammation. This inflammation can cause the formation of bone spurs and symptoms of pain, tenderness and stiffness.

Facet syndrome, also known as spinal osteoarthritis, can become progressively more painful over time. For this reason, many people with facet syndrome seek treatment for their symptoms.

Conservative facet syndrome treatment options

Your physician will most likely first suggest a conservative approach to facet syndrome treatment. Including options such as:

  • Rest. Taking time to rest your neck and back may help reduce inflammation in the spinal tissues and relieve pressure exerted on painful joints that’s caused by standing or sitting at length. Make sure to avoid being overly sedentary by breaking up periods of rest with light activity and movement.
  • Physical therapy. A therapist can help you perform exercises to strengthen your core muscles, teach you proper body mechanics, stretch out areas of nerve compression and provide essential pain prevention tips. Strong core muscles are able to assume some of the stress placed upon degenerating joints, potentially relieving facet syndrome symptoms.
  • Cold/hot therapy. Applying ice packs to the affected area can help numb pain and reduce inflammation. Additionally, placing heating pads on the neck or back or taking warm baths can promote blood flow to the tissues surrounding an affected joint.
  • Medications. Your physician may recommend one of several medications as treatment for your facet syndrome symptoms. You will likely be advised to take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen at first, although you may be prescribed stronger medications depending on the severity of your symptoms.
  • Facet joint blocks. In order to diagnose where your pain is originating from, your physician may administer a facet joint block, which involves injecting a medication directly into a facet joint. Because the medication numbs pain caused by facet joint problems, temporary pain relief means that the physician has properly identified the problematic joint.

Alternative facet syndrome treatment options

In addition to traditional conservative treatments, there are also many alternative methods you may want to consider to reduce the pain caused by facet syndrome. It is important to consult your doctor when exploring any of these treatment options. Some popular treatment options include:

  • Yoga and Pilates. These activities place an emphasis on mindful breathing, maintaining proper form throughout exercises and strengthening the body’s core using specific methods. These approaches can be beneficial to facet syndrome patients because developing the core muscles that stabilize the body can also remove some of the stress placed on the spine.
  • Acupuncture. This practice of carefully placing tiny needles at strategic points of the body originated in China but there are many patients who report finding relief from pain through acupuncture. The treatment may help stimulate blood flow and the release of natural pain-relieving endorphins, potentially relieving symptoms.
  • Chiropractic care. Chiropractors use a variety of methods to realign the spine and although their care may not be recommended for everyone experiencing spine degeneration, some facet syndrome patients find the treatment helpful in temporarily reducing their symptoms.

When to consider surgery for facet syndrome treatment

Facet syndrome treatment doesn’t progress past conservative options in a large number of cases. However, if your pain and symptoms associated with facet syndrome cannot be relieved with nonsurgical methods, surgery may be recommended. Patients considering surgery are often concerned about the invasiveness of spine procedures, particularly traditional open spine surgery performed in a hospital. It is important to be aware of the full range of surgical options that exist for facet syndrome, including procedures that are able to take a minimally invasive approach.

At Laser Spine Institute, our surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery that offers lasting relief from the symptoms of facet syndrome and other degenerative spine conditions. Unlike traditional open neck or back procedures that require overnight hospitalization, our surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis. Our procedures use muscle-sparing techniques that allow for a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine. The result is less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open neck or back surgery.^

Our minimally invasive procedures include:

  • Discectomy. The removal of part of a damaged disc. This procedure is intended to relieve the pressure that a damaged disc can place on neighboring nerve roots or the spinal cord. By decompressing the pinched nerve root or the spinal cord, the radiating symptoms of pain, numbness and weakness can be alleviated.
  • Laminotomy. The removal of a portion of the lamina, which is a flat, roof-like section of a vertebra. This procedure opens up the central spinal canal to allow more space for the spinal cord or nerve material after it has been compressed by damaged discs, thickened ligaments or other obstructions.
  • Foraminotomy. The widening of one of the openings between vertebrae that allow nerves to exit the spine, called foramina. By removing bone spurs or other types of tissue that narrow the foramina, our surgeons can decompress nerve roots that pass through these openings.
  • Facet thermal ablation. The deadening of a facet joint nerve. Much like a dental root canal, this procedure is performed to relieve pain originating from an irritated nerve.

Our surgeons also perform minimally invasive stabilization procedures, which are generally reserved for more advanced cases of spinal degeneration or injury as an alternative to traditional open spine fusion. We offer the following stabilization surgeries:

  • Decompression with Interlaminar Stabilization™ Device
  • Anterior cervical discectomy fusion (ACDF)
  • Posterior cervical fusion
  • Cervical disc replacement
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF)
  • Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF)
  • Sacroiliac (SI) joint fusion

Before you consent to an open neck or back surgery as treatment for facet syndrome, contact our dedicated team to explore the minimally invasive procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute. Since 2005 our board-certified surgeons+ have been able to help more than 75,000 patients find relief at our outpatient centers across the country.

For your no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for our procedures, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today.