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How do doctors diagnose and treat facet syndrome?

Facet syndrome, which is also referred to as facet osteoarthritis or facet disease, is a degenerative condition that occurs when a facet joint deteriorates. Facet joints connect the spinal vertebrae to each other and allow the spine to bend and twist while providing stability. Like other joints in the body, the facet joints have a smooth cartilage lining that protects the bones from rubbing and grinding against each other. When one of these joints becomes worn down from the natural aging process or because of traumatic injury to the spine, the resulting friction can lead to joint inflammation.

If you think you are experiencing symptoms related to facet syndrome, such as localized neck or back pain and stiffness, it is important that you are diagnosed by your doctor so you can begin a treatment plan to manage your pain. The following practical information about facet syndrome diagnosis and treatment can make you more involved with this process and give you a better chance of finding lasting relief.

Facet syndrome diagnosis

Because pain in the neck or back is relatively common, an accurate diagnosis is necessary to determine whether you have facet syndrome or another condition. A physician should be able to provide a diagnosis after performing a thorough evaluation. This typically involves:

  • A review of your medical history
  • Questions about your symptoms
  • A physical examination involving range of motion tests
  • Diagnostic testing such as X-ray, MRI or CT scan

The examination might also include a diagnostic facet joint injection, which involves pain medication being injected directly into the facet joint. If your symptoms cease immediately after the injection, then it is likely that the source of your pain is, in fact, the facet joint. If your symptoms persist, however, then they may be related to another condition, such as a herniated disc or a narrowing spine.

Facet syndrome treatment

If you have been diagnosed with facet syndrome, your symptoms can usually be managed using conservative options such as over-the-counter pain medications, low-impact exercise or corticosteroid injections. If fully exploring these and other treatment options are unable provide you with adequate relief from your pain, then surgery may be recommended.

At USA Spine Care, we perform minimally invasive spine surgery to address facet syndrome on an outpatient basis. Among the procedures we offer is one called a facet thermal ablation, which is designed to resolve the pain associated with facet joint arthritis.

To learn more and to find out if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient surgeries, contact us today and ask for your no-cost MRI review.

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