Among the different causes of facet syndrome, the natural aging process is probably the largest contributor. Facet syndrome, which is also known as osteoarthritis of the spine, is a degenerative condition that develops gradually over time due to continual wearing on the facet joints that connect the vertebrae in the spinal column. This is why facet syndrome is so often seen in adults over age 50, although it can also occur in younger people as a result of injury or overuse.
The role of aging in spinal degeneration
Healthy spinal joints function like a hinge situated between two vertebrae. These hinges are lined with a protective cartilage coating and lubricated with a thick liquid called synovial fluid, both of which allow for smooth motion. Normally, the bones within the facet joints are able to move freely with very little friction between them.
As part of the degenerative changes in the spine that commonly occur during the aging process, the cartilage that lines the facet joints can begin to break down and lose their shock-absorbing capabilities. Additionally, the synovial fluid can become thinner and less effective as a lubricant. As a result, the unprotected vertebral bones can come into contact with each other and begin to rub together, which can lead to the following symptoms:
- Pain and inflammation
- Decreased flexibility and range of motion
- Sensations of creaking and popping
Sometimes, the body responds by producing bone spurs, which are outgrowths of bone that are the body’s attempt to stabilize the affected area. While bone spurs aren’t necessarily painful, they can cause symptoms by compressing the spinal cord or an exiting nerve root.
Treatment for osteoarthritis of the spine
Many patients are able to find sufficient relief from the symptoms of spinal osteoarthritis through conservative treatments like anti-inflammatory medications, pain relievers, hot and cold therapy, stretching, massage and light exercise.
Surgery might be recommended to address debilitating pain if other treatments don’t bring a return to a healthy active lifestyle. Before consenting to a highly invasive hospital-based open spine procedure, you should be aware of the full range of options. The board-certified surgeons+ at USA Spine Care perform minimally invasive spine surgery that is an outpatient alternative to traditional open spine procedures.
To learn more and receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures, reach out to our dedicated team today.
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