Facet syndrome types vary by location

Researching facet syndrome types? Start with Laser Spine Institute's helpful resources.

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Although the underlying condition is the same, facet syndrome types are categorized by location. The facet joints link the vertebrae together, allowing for spinal flexibility. Facet syndrome refers to pain and other symptoms caused when the facet joints have deteriorated with age and become inflamed. This condition can affect any level of the spine, but is most common in the flexible, weight-bearing cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) regions.

Facet syndrome is a form of arthritis and can become debilitating not just from the local soreness and stiffness that comes with joint inflammation but also because it can cause spinal nerve compression. This condition can have a severe effect on your life, affecting days at work, nights of sleep and everything in between. Educating yourself about the types of this condition and the treatment options available can help you to better work with your doctor to give you the best chance of getting back to the life you’ve been missing.

Categories of facet syndrome

The location of the facet joint or joints affected by deterioration will determine how the condition is classified. This is because when facet syndrome leads to nerve compression, the location will determine where symptoms occur:

  • Lumbar — in the lower back, nerve compression caused by a facet joint abnormality can produce symptoms in the buttocks, hips, thighs, calves and feet.
  • Thoracic — in the upper and middle back, it produces symptoms in the torso.
  • Cervical — in the neck, it produces symptoms in the upper back, shoulders, arms and fingers.

Treating different facet syndrome types

For any location of facet syndrome, doctors will usually attempt to treat symptoms associated with facet syndrome with conservative options like pain or anti-inflammatory medication, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, exercise and corticosteroid injections. However, if symptoms persist for weeks or months, surgery might become an option.

If you have been recommended for surgery but have concerns about the highly invasive nature of traditional open neck or back procedures, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our board-certified surgeons+ use muscle-sparing techniques like a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, leading to an outpatient procedure that offers less risk of complication compared to traditional open spine surgery.

To get a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today.