Facet disease is a degenerative condition that affects the facet joints of the spine. Also known as spinal arthritis, facet disease typically occurs as a result of the aging process. As we age, the cartilage that lines and protects each spinal joint begins to wear away, which can lead to exposed bone rubbing on bone. Once this friction occurs, symptoms of pain, inflammation, stiffness and tenderness can develop in the spine and may progressively worsen over time. Bone spurs also may form.
Conservative, nonsurgical treatments such as pain medication, physical therapy, hot/cold therapy and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) are usually the first methods recommended to relieve pain. However, some patients dealing with facet disease symptoms seek alternative holistic treatments, such as acupuncture.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing method based on the theory of qi (“chi”). The Chinese believe that qi is the life energy that courses throughout the body in specific channels, or meridians. When these meridians are “blocked,” it is thought that qi becomes imbalanced, leading to the development of health problems.
Before treating a patient with facet disease, an acupuncturist will likely thoroughly examine the patient’s medical history and take pulse readings. If the patient is eligible for treatment, he or she will be asked to lie face down on a massage table. Next, the acupuncturist will insert hair-thin, sterilized stainless-steel needles into specific points along the patient’s neck or back, depending on where the pain is most intense. The patient will be required to lie still for a period of time before the needles are removed. The acupuncturist may have the patient return for several more treatments in an effort to relieve as much pain as possible.
It is still unclear exactly how acupuncture can provide facet disease pain relief. Practitioners of Western medicine believe that the needles are inserted near nerve roots, which may increase blood flow and stimulate the body to release its natural painkiller, endorphins.
If acupuncture is ineffective
Using acupuncture to treat facet disease may relieve pain for some patients, but not for others. If you have exhausted conservative and alternative treatments with no tangible symptomatic relief, you may want to consider the minimally invasive procedures offered at USA Spine Care. With the use of state-of-the-art techniques, our orthopedic surgeons have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from neck and back pain caused by a variety of spine conditions. If you’d like to learn more about our procedures, contact USA Spine Care and receive a free MRI review.* This is the first step in determining if you are a candidate for treatment at USA Spine Care.