Lumbar facet syndrome

Lumbar facet syndrome is a term used to describe the pain of arthritis in the facet joints, specifically in the facet joints of the lumbar (lower) spine.

Because the lumbar spine bears so much of the body’s weight while still remaining flexible, the joints are prone to deterioration over time. Facet joints connect the vertebrae and allow them to pivot and rotate to facilitate basic spinal movements. These joints are covered with cartilage and synovial fluid, which adds lubrication for smooth movement. As the cartilage wears down due to natural changes combined with years of repetitive motion, lumbar facet syndrome can develop.

While there are a wide range of contributors to this condition, this is generally an age-related condition that becomes more common after patients reach the age of 50.

Conservative treatment for lumbar facet syndrome

In addition to local aches and stiffness, facet joint deterioration can lead to the development of bone spurs that grow near the deteriorated joints. In the lower back, if a bone spur comes into contact with a nearby nerve root and/or the large sciatic nerve, it can produce pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in the buttocks, legs and feet.

Upon diagnosis of facet syndrome as the underlying cause of pain and symptoms, most doctors will recommend an initial course of conservative treatment options. These can include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Exercise to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and increase blood flow
  • Lifestyle changes to help lose weight and improve posture
  • Radiofrequency neurotomy to deaden the affected joint nerve
  • Medial branch nerve block injections
  • Massage therapy

Conservative treatments often take several months before you can fully determine whether or not they have been an effective pain reliever. If you’re still suffering after this time, your doctor may recommend spine surgery to provide long-term relief from facet syndrome.

Minimally invasive treatment for lumbar facet syndrome

The minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute has helped more than 75,000 patients find pain relief, including patients with lumbar facet syndrome. Our outpatient procedures offer patients a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.^

For those dealing with facet syndrome, we may recommend a technique called a facet thermal ablation. This procedure involves the use of a laser to deaden certain sensory nerves that are being affected by facet syndrome and is usually performed in conjunction with a minimally invasive decompression procedure. Our board-certified surgeons+ also perform minimally invasive stabilizations that are an outpatient alternative to traditional open spinal fusions that may be recommended in some severe cases of spinal instability.

For more information about our minimally invasive spine surgery for lumbar facet syndrome, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our caring and dedicated team will be glad to provide you with a free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.