What Is facet syndrome?

Facet Syndrome

Facet syndrome is a form of osteoarthritis that affects the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are the sliding joints that allow the vertebrae of the spine to slip over one another without losing contact. Although it’s unclear why the body’s repair process fails to keep pace with the degeneration that leads to osteoarthritis in the facet joints, what is known is that people older than age 50 are more likely to experience the effects of facet syndrome. That means the aging process is a factor in the degeneration of the layers of cartilage that line the facet joint’s articular surfaces. One of the results of this cartilage deterioration is facet syndrome. In addition, other anatomical components of the spine become desiccated and lose water content as we age. In the case of facet joints, this means less synovial fluid is produced. Synovial fluid is the natural lubrication of the joint, which reduces friction and wear. Loss of this protective fluid can mean the erosion of articular cartilage, as one bony joint surface continually rubs against another. While this issue may not be immediately noticeable, the subsequent symptoms can become major issues.

Symptoms of facet syndrome

When cartilage deteriorates on a facet joint’s articular surfaces, the joint can become inflamed. The nerves running to the joint capsule become irritated and painful, producing the deep aching sensation associated with many forms of arthritis. In addition, other parts of the body might experience referred pain that travels the length of an affected nerve root or the spinal cord. This referred pain is more likely to arise in the presence of bone spurs, also known as osteophytes. These bony protrusions grow along the edges of the facet joint in a response to inflammation, and they aren’t necessarily symptomatic by themselves. However, when the bone spurs make contact with or compress adjacent nerve roots, symptoms such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness occur. Depending on their severity, these issues have the potential to make a negative impact on daily life.

Treating facet syndrome

When pain and other symptoms associated with facet syndrome affect day-to-day life, it’s important to consult a physician to discuss symptom management. Arthritis issues can usually be managed using a combination of pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification, corticosteroid injections and other conservative treatment methods. If these methods fail to alleviate the symptoms, surgery may be recommended. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the many benefits of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that are performed using innovative techniques. The orthopedic surgeons at Laser Spine Institute have helped tens of thousands of patients find relief from the many symptoms of facet syndrome.