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Facet joint hypertrophy overview

Facet joint hypertrophy is a condition in which the facet joints of the spine become enlarged. Facet joints are cartilage-encased hinges that hold adjacent vertebrae together. With age, these joints can begin to degenerate and may become inflamed, causing symptoms like pain, stiffness, numbness, reduced mobility, spinal deformities and inability to arch the spine backward.

Enlargement of facet joints can be caused by multiple factors. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause the lining of facet joints to become inflamed and swollen. Or, the cartilage on the joints can wear away, which is referred to as facet joint osteoarthritis. Once the cartilage is gone, the body compensates by growing bony protrusions on the joints called bone spurs.

These bone spurs can make it seem as if the joints are thicker and larger in some areas. Thus, either by inflammation or extra bone growth, facet joint “hypertrophy,” or “enlargement,” can occur. To learn about the symptoms of facet joint hypertrophy as well as the treatments available for relief, read the following article.

Symptoms of facet joint hypertrophy

The pain of facet joint hypertrophy doesn’t come from the inflammation itself, but rather from the effect the inflammation has on surrounding spinal nerves. The vertebrae are surrounded by openings called foramina through which our spinal nerves pass on their way to and from the muscles and sensory organs.

The swelling of facet joint hypertrophy can press on these nerve passageways, forcing the nerves to become constricted. Therefore, symptoms can often be “referred,” which means they appear in places that are far from the site of damage. For instance, although you may have facet joint hypertrophy in your lower back, the symptoms can extend all the way through the buttocks and legs.

Treatment for facet joint hypertrophy

If you have been diagnosed with this condition, your doctor may suggest an open spine facet joint surgery to help relieve your symptoms. Spinal fusion is one possible procedure. This involves a bone graft or implants used to strengthen two or more vertebrae in an attempt to relieve compression and stop the pain. You may also consider a laminectomy, which is a procedure that removes obstructing bone mass to widen nerve passageways so that neural compression is lessened.

Alternatives to traditional open spine procedures do exist. Through the minimally invasive procedures performed at USA Spine Care, it is possible for people to find relief from facet joint hypertrophy without having to go through the trauma of a highly invasive surgery. Our board-certified+ surgeons eliminate the large 6- to 8-inch incisions of traditional open back surgery that can lead to muscle trauma, infection and scarring. Contact us to learn more about our outpatient surgery advantages.

We provide minimally invasive decompression surgery to relieve pressure on the impacted nerve root in the spinal canal and minimally invasive stabilization surgery to provide support to the spine if an entire disc or vertebra must be removed. Reach out to us today to learn more about the procedures we offer to help relieve facet joint hypertrophy.

As the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, USA Spine Care has performed more than 100,000 patient procedures, and we are confident that we can help you on the road to recovery. To determine if you are a potential candidate for our facet joint hypertrophy procedures, ask us for a free MRI review* today.

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