Facet disease, also referred to a spinal osteoarthritis or arthritis of the spine, is the inflammation of the facet joints in the spine that allow the vertebrae to hinge and move.
While the natural aging process is the most common cause of facet disease, there are a number of other facet disease causes that may speed up the development of the condition. Having a basic understanding of the most common causes of facet disease can be a helpful tool for avoiding activities and lifestyle choices that increase the likelihood of developing chronic neck or back pain later in life.
Osteoarthritis of the spine
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and can develop at any weight-bearing joint in the body.
In the spine, this condition commonly affects the facet joints that connect vertebrae and allow the vertebrae to pivot and bend. Over the years, the cartilage that coats these joints gradually begins to deteriorate as a result of normal wear and tear. Eventually as the cartilage wears down, movement at the joint can become limited or painful as a result of uncomfortable bone-on-bone contact.
Additionally, bone spurs often accompany severe cases of facet disease as the body’s natural response to help stabilize the spine. A bone spur is a smooth nub that grows off the damaged facet joint that is supposed to help stabilize the spine as the joint gradually deteriorates. However, this growth can press against a nearby nerve root and cause pain and symptoms.
Activities and other risk factors that may lead to osteoarthritis
In addition to growing older, there are a number of other factors that may cause the cartilage in the facet joints to deteriorate earlier than expected. Some of the factors to consider include:
- Obesity. Carrying excess body weight increases the burden on the components of the spine and accelerates facet disease.
- Poor posture. Improper spinal alignment further strains the spine.
- Frequent bending, twisting or lifting. Activities that require frequent, difficult movements increase wear and tear.
- Participation in high-impact sports. Sports tend to take their toll on the neck and back, and experiencing spinal injuries can make it more likely that a person will develop facet disease.
- Smoking. Tobacco products can decrease circulation to the facet joints, accelerating the degenerative process.
Treatment options for facet disease
If despite your best efforts to avoid the most common facet disease causes you still develop osteoarthritis, there are a number of treatment options available to help relieve your pain and other symptoms related to this condition. In a large number of cases, a combination of anti-inflammatory medication, heat or ice therapy, gentle stretching, massage, exercise and rest will reduce your symptoms.
In the event that you have exhausted your conservative treatment options and are considering an invasive traditional open spine surgery, first contact USA Spine Care to learn about the advantages of our minimally invasive procedures. We can perform a minimally invasive facet thermal ablation to remove the arthritis from the facet joints using precise laser technology and to deaden the surrounding nerves to prevent future pain in that area. This procedure is typically performed in conjunction with one of our minimally invasive decompression surgeries. By using muscle-sparing techniques, we are able to perform outpatient surgery that offers patients a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open neck or back procedures.
Ask for your free MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.