What is lumbar facet syndrome?

Lumbar facet syndrome is a form of arthritis that affects the facet joints within the lumbar spine (lower back). The facet joints are the hinges where the vertebrae meet; these hinges allow the vertebrae to bend and move, ultimately giving flexibility to the spine.

In the lumbar spine, these joints are subjected to wear and tear associated with the added pressure of weight gain and repetitive motions. Over time, the stress on the lumbar facet joints can cause the joints to gradually deteriorate, leading to lumbar facet syndrome and possibly the development of other degenerative spine conditions.

Lumbar facet syndrome can produce a dull ache, tenderness, radiating pain, stiffness and other symptoms, and is most common in the lumbar and cervical (neck) regions. Because this is commonly a degenerative spine condition, certain lifestyle changes may help you avoid or postpone the development of this condition. While preventing the condition is not always possible, making certain lifestyle changes will help improve the health and strength of your spine.

Risk factors for lumbar facet syndrome

The root causes of facet syndrome and other forms of arthritis remain unclear. It is believed that some people are genetically predisposed to developing the condition, but there is little doubt that the aging process is a factor; people age 50 and older are far more likely to have facet syndrome and other forms of arthritis. As we age, the spine, including the facet joints, begins to break down after years of wear and tear. This can produce abnormal growths, such as bone spurs, which can threaten to irritate or compress nearby nerve roots or the spinal cord. Other risk factors include:

  • Traumatic injury
  • Disc degeneration
  • Infection
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Inflammation

When facet syndrome affects the lumbar region, symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness can affect the lower back, the buttocks, the legs and the feet. You should consult your physician or spine care specialist if you are experiencing these symptoms. There are several nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available to help reduce your pain and symptoms so you can get back to your daily activities.

Treatment for lumbar facet syndrome

Conservative treatments such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), behavior modification, physical therapy and other methods typically are often sufficient for managing symptoms. However, if chronic symptoms persist after several weeks or months of conservative treatment, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about ways to find relief from neck and back pain with a minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery.

We offer several types of minimally invasive spine surgery to treat lumbar facet syndrome, including decompression and stabilization procedures. For moderate lumbar facet syndrome, a minimally invasive decompression surgery would remove a portion of the bone spur (osteophyte) that is compressing the nerve root and causing your pain. In some cases, if the lumbar facet syndrome has caused damage to a vertebra or disc and made that portion of the spine unstable, a stabilization procedure would remove the damaged vertebra or disc and insert an artificial disc and/or bone grafts to immediately support the spine.

For more information about the benefits of our minimally invasive spine surgery, contact the spine care experts at Laser Spine Institute and ask for an MRI or CT scan review.