When to consider facet syndrome surgery

Facet syndrome surgery is almost always considered a treatment of last resort for people who have not found sufficient relief from conservative treatment methods. In a high number of cases, the symptoms of facet syndrome — such as localized, chronic pain and stiffness near the arthritic facet joint — can be effectively managed over time with a series of nonsurgical techniques.

If facet syndrome is affecting your life and you’re wondering when to consider surgery to treat your condition, the following information can help you make an informed decision about your care.

What is facet syndrome and why would surgery be needed?

In the spinal column, the vertebrae are connected by facet joints that help the spine to bend and flex while still allowing for basic movement. Facet syndrome, also called spinal osteoarthritis, is a term for inflammation of these joints. Over time and due to natural aging, the cartilage that protects these joints can deteriorate, leading to swelling, stiffness and achiness. Additionally, facet syndrome can lead to spinal nerve compression that causes symptoms in the upper or lower extremities like shooting pain, tingling and numbness.

Since facet syndrome is an irreversible age-related condition, the goal of treatment is to manage pain and improve range of motion. Usually, an effective treatment plan combines stretching exercises, anti-inflammatory drugs, the use of heating/ice packs and other similar methods. In many cases, several weeks or months of conservative treatment can help relieve pain and improve spinal flexibility.

However, you and your doctor may decide facet syndrome surgery is an option if the following applies to you:

  • Conservative treatments have been fully explored without bringing relief
  • Pain and other symptoms are interfering with your everyday life
  • Symptoms are suddenly or gradually worsening

Upon consulting with a surgical specialist, you will usually receive a full evaluation, including diagnostic imagery, to determine the source of symptoms and to help him or her make a surgical recommendation.

Minimally invasive facet syndrome surgery

Patients with facet syndrome are often reluctant to undergo surgery, even if it is the recommended course of action, due to the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open neck or back procedures. With traditional facet syndrome surgery the procedure typically involves a large incision, a hospital stay of one or more nights, risk of complication and long, potentially difficult, recovery period.

As a safer and effective alternative, the surgeons at Laser Spine Institute perform minimally invasive spine surgery that offers less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine procedures.^ By using a less than 1-inch incision and other muscle-sparing techniques, our procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis in our state-of-the-art facilities.

If you’ve been recommended to undergo a procedure and would like to learn more about our minimally invasive spine surgery, reach out to Laser Spine Institute today. We offer a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.