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Can facet syndrome be caused by whiplash?

Most facet syndrome causes are related to an overload of pressure on the spinal facet joints, which link the vertebrae together. In many cases, the excess pressure results from degenerative changes in the spine. During daily activities, the facet joints are in constant motion, which can result in significant wear and tear over time. Additionally, trauma such as a whiplash injury to the neck can contribute to the development of — or potentially even worsen an existing case of — facet syndrome.

What is facet syndrome?

Facet syndrome is a type of wear-and-tear arthritis (osteoarthritis) that develops in the spinal joints.
These joints, which are lined with smooth cartilage, allow the spine to bend and twist through a wide range of motion. Over time, the cartilage can deteriorate, allowing the vertebrae to grind against each other. This can lead to the formation of protective bone spurs, which can serve a useful purpose but sometimes compress nearby nerve roots or the spinal cord. When facet syndrome causes symptoms such as pain, muscle weakness, numbness and tingling sensations, it is usually a result of nerve compression.

What causes facet syndrome?

Although facet syndrome is most often associated with age-related spinal degeneration, there are additional factors that can lead to its development as well. For instance, other potential facet syndrome causes include:

  • Obesity or excess body weight
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Spinal trauma, such as a whiplash injury to the neck

Usually, the treatment approach for addressing facet syndrome is the same, regardless of whether the condition resulted from routine wear and tear or a traumatic injury. Many people are able to find sufficient relief from uncomfortable symptoms with a combination of nonsurgical treatments maintained over the course of several weeks or months. Some potentially effective options include pain medications, physical therapy, low-impact exercises, corticosteroid injections and lifestyle modifications.

Alternatively, if you’d like to learn about minimally invasive surgical options for treating facet syndrome, you can contact USA Spine Care. We can provide a no-cost MRI review* to help determine if you are a candidate for our minimally invasive surgery.

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