What causes lumbar facet syndrome?

Facet syndrome is a type of wear and tear arthritis (osteoarthritis) that often affects the joints in the lower back (lumbar spine). These joints, which serve as hinges between vertebrae, normally fit together snugly and allow the spinal bones to glide smoothly against each other without friction. Age-related degeneration coupled with excess pressure can force the bones out of alignment, causing the protective cartilage lining of a facet joint to break down and erode. This can lead to bone-on-bone contact and spinal nerve compression, both of which can cause chronic low back pain and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Why is the lumbar spine susceptible to osteoarthritis?

While arthritic changes can take place anywhere in the spinal column, the lower back is particularly vulnerable to the effects of aging, which can lead to the development of a number of degenerative spine conditions, including facet syndrome. The reason? The lumbar spine supports the majority of the body’s weight and connects directly to the pelvis, which is the spinal region most affected by body movement.

For example, the lumbar spine can easily be strained through various activities, such as:

  • Bending to lift a heavy item
  • Twisting to move a weighty object
  • Carrying a hefty load
  • Sitting for extended periods of time

The spinal strain that results from these activities can damage the facet joints in the lumbar spine and further accelerate the rate of natural spinal degeneration.

How is facet syndrome treated?

In many cases, the symptoms of facet syndrome can be managed effectively with exercise, medications and other nonsurgical therapies. However, some people ultimately elect surgical treatment for spinal osteoarthritis if the associated discomfort becomes severe or debilitating.

The surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive outpatient procedures to address facet syndrome and other degenerative spine conditions. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is often clinically appropriate and provides many advantages versus open neck or back surgery.^ If you are interested in learning more, contact us to request a free MRI review.* Our team can explain your options and help you determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery.