Facet syndrome is another term for osteoarthritis of the spine, which occurs when the cartilage in the facet joints wears away. The cartilage in the facet joints allows the vertebrae of the spine to glide across each other smoothly as the spine bends and twists. When this cartilage deteriorates, the bones in the joint begin to grind against each other. This can lead to joint stiffness, inflammation and localized pain. If this condition persists, bone spurs can develop and press on a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord, potentially causing other symptoms, such as radiating pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness.
Treating facet syndrome
If you have been diagnosed with facet syndrome, your physician will most likely suggest that you try a daily treatment regimen for a few months. Elements of this plan may include a combination of over-the-counter pain and anti-inflammatory medications, lifestyle changes to help shed excess weight, physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, steroid injections and more. Some patients also try alternative treatments such as acupuncture, yoga and chiropractic care.
Therapeutic stretching exercises for facet syndrome
Stretching exercises that can lessen the strain being put on the neck and back muscles will most likely also be an important part of the facet syndrome treatment plan that your physician suggests. Some popular options include:
- Back flexion stretch. To help release the tension in many of the muscles surrounding the spine, lie on your back with your legs flat and your head on the ground. Slowly raise your knees and pull them to your chest, and simultaneously lift your head off the floor and drop your chin toward your chest.
- Hamstring stretch. Tight hamstrings can increase the tension in the back, so sit on the floor and extend one leg straight out. Place the sole of your other foot on the inner thigh of your straightened leg, and bend forward and reach for the toes of your straightened leg. Switch legs and repeat.
- Piriformis stretch. The piriformis muscles in the hips can also pull on the back muscles if they are tight. To stretch them, lie on your back with your legs flat and slowly lift one leg and bring your knee toward the opposite shoulder. Pull the knee across your body and hold for 10 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.
- Glutes stretch. Lie on your back, lift your knees and cross one knee over the other. Then, gently pull both knees toward your chest and hold for 10 seconds. Switch knees and repeat.
After several months of attempting conservative and alternative treatments, if you are still experiencing painful facet syndrome symptoms, spine surgery may be a necessary consideration. USA Spine Care successfully performs thousands of minimally invasive spine surgeries each year, setting us apart as the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery.^ Contact us today if you would like to learn more about our outpatient surgery.
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