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 spine (lower back).

Because the lumbar spine bears most of the weight and flexibility of the body, the joints of the spine tend to deteriorate over time. Facet joints connect the vertebrae and allow them to pivot and rotate, giving movement to the spine. These joints are covered with cartilage and synovial fluid, which adds lubricant and allows the vertebrae to move smoothly. As the cartilage wears down over years of repetitive motion, lumbar facet syndrome can develop.

While the exact cause of facet syndrome is up for debate, research shows that age is a common risk factor and that people over the age of 50 are more likely to develop this condition.

Conservative treatment for lumbar facet syndrome

Facet joint deterioration can lead to the development of bone spurs (osteophytes) 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.

If you’re experiencing this pain, your doctor can diagnose your condition and begin a series of conservative treatments to help reduce your pain. Conservative treatments often include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Exercise to strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and increase blood flow
  • Behavior modification to improve body mechanics and 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 relief of pain. If you’re still suffering after this time, your doctor may recommend spine surgery to help relieve the pressure on your damaged facet joint.

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 surgeries allow patients to have a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery.

For patients with facet syndrome, we may recommend a facet thermal ablation surgery, which reduces the inflammation in the joints and numbs the surrounding nerves to help prevent pain in the future. This surgery may also be accompanied by a minimally invasive decompression or stabilization surgery if there is additional damage to your spine. Our minimally invasive decompression surgery helps to relieve pressure on a pinched nerve by removing a small portion of the damaged spine; it is often an appropriate choice for moderate spine damage. In the event that your condition has started to deteriorate the stability of your spine, you may require a stabilization surgery, which helps regain stability with the use of an artificial disc and/or bone grafts.

For more information about our minimally invasive spine surgery for lumbar facet syndrome, contact Laser Spine Institute today.