If you were recently diagnosed with facet joint syndrome, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your condition. Learning more about spinal anatomy and how your condition affects it can help you better communicate with your doctor. Having a better understanding of facet joint syndrome can also give you better expectations about the treatment process and help you find the best treatment options.
What is facet joint syndrome?
The bones that make up the spinal column, called vertebrae, protect the spinal cord and provide stability to the upper body while providing range of motion. The vertebral facet joints are hinge-like structures that connect the vertebrae and allow for the twisting and bending required from the neck and back. Facet joints are lined with a thin layer of cartilage and covered in lubricating fluid, which allows the bones to glide gently against one another.
Facet joint syndrome refers to the pain and inflammation that can occur when this cartilage wears away — usually related to the natural aging process — eventually causes bone-on-bone friction. This friction is problematic because it can:
- Make the joints feel stiff, especially early in the morning and after prolonged periods of inactivity
- Cause chronic, localized pain due to the inflammation of a tiny nerve that exists in each joint
- Lead to the formation of bone spurs, which can make joint movement difficult and painful
- Cause radiating symptoms by narrowing the spinal canal and putting pressure on spinal nerves
How do you treat this condition?
Facet joint syndrome, like all other types of arthritis, cannot be cured, nor can its effects be completely reversed. However, there are treatment options available to help manage the associated symptoms. In many cases, a course of conservative nonsurgical techniques can help relieve pain and improve or at least maintain joint flexibility.
In the event that the symptoms of facet joint syndrome are severe and conservative treatment has proven ineffective, surgery may be considered. At USA Spine Care we perform minimally invasive spine surgery that can treat facet joint syndrome on an outpatient basis. These procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures, offering our patients a shorter recovery time.
If you have been diagnosed with facet joint syndrome and are exploring your surgical options, contact us today. We offer a no-cost MRI or CT scan review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.