Facet joint arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease or spinal osteoarthritis, affects millions of people every year. Degenerative conditions like this are usually the result of aging, so individuals age 50 and over are especially vulnerable. Arthritis is a broad term that can be applied to a range of conditions involving the body’s joints. Facet joint arthritis, however, refers specifically to the joints, called facet joints, which connect the vertebrae together.
Facet joints are surrounded by cartilage, which is a soft connective tissue that is vulnerable to wear. As the cartilage degenerates, the joints are no longer able to hinge easily and painlessly. While age is the primary cause of joint deterioration, factors such as injury, obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption have been shown to contribute to this process. With the onset of the symptoms described below, simple activities like walking, sitting, gardening or throwing a football can become difficult or even impossible. Therefore, it is vital to seek treatment when you begin to develop this condition.
Facet joint arthritis symptoms
Symptoms of facet joint arthritis may depend on what type of arthritis you have and where the degenerating joints are located in the spine. Symptoms to look out for include:
- Local pain in the neck and back
- Joint stiffness and limited range of motion
- Tingling and numbness in the upper or lower extremities
- Muscle weakness
Radiating symptoms in the arms or legs are typically the result of nerve compression caused by a bone spur or enlarged facet joint. Bone spurs are bony protrusions that develop as the body’s natural attempt to stabilize joints undergoing bone-on-bone friction. While not painful, symptoms occur if they compress the spinal cord or a nerve root and interfere with normal nerve function.
How to treat facet joint arthritis
If you do exhibit symptoms of facet joint arthritis, most doctors will recommend conservative treatments upon diagnosis. In addition to standard treatments like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, pain medication, chiropractic care and hot and cold therapy, there are alternative methods like yoga and Pilates that numerous patients have success with. Many patients can have a high quality of life and manage their symptoms without resorting to open back surgery.
Because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open back surgery, most doctors and specialists usually see it as a treatment of last resort. If you are looking at surgical options to treat nerve compression related to spinal arthritis, contact USA Spine Care. Our board-certified+ surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery that uses smaller incisions to reach the source of nerve compression, leading to less surgical blood loss and a reduced risk of infection.^
To find out more about our state-of-the-art outpatient centers and to see if you are a potential candidate, reach out to us today for a free MRI review.* We have helped thousands of patients find relief from chronic neck or back pain each year and we look forward to helping you reclaim your life from facet joint arthritis.
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