The primary risk factor for facet syndrome is something outside of our control: the natural aging process. While there are other risk factors, like lifestyle choices and genetics, the most common cause of facet disease are age-related changes that cause the deterioration of the spine.
Over time natural loss of water content combined with the wear and tear caused by years of bending, flexing and twisting causes the protective layer of cartilage within the facet joints of the spine to deteriorate. As the layer of cartilage wears down, the vertebrae begin to rub against each other, causing bone-on-bone friction, which can lead to inflammation of the joints and development of bone spurs.
Understanding what causes facet syndrome and the risk factors for this condition can help you make certain lifestyle choices to improve your overall spine health in the hopes of avoiding this condition.
What is facet syndrome?
Facet syndrome is a form of osteoarthritis that affects the facet joints of the spine.
Facet joints are the hinges that connect the vertebrae of the spine. These joints allow the vertebrae to pivot and move, which enables the spine to bend and flex. The facet joints are protected by a thin layer of cartilage and are lubricated by fluid that causes the joints to move smoothly against each other.
The aging process is the main risk factor for facet syndrome because over time the cartilage and lubricating fluid begin to dry out, making it brittle and prone to deterioration. This natural breakdown of the cartilage on the facet joints and the resulting friction of the vertebrae can lead to facet syndrome.
Prevention and treatment of facet syndrome
While aging cannot be prevented, certain lifestyle choices can reduce your chances of developing facet syndrome. These lifestyle choices that promote overall spine health include:
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Avoiding tobacco
- Exercising regularly
- Moderating alcohol consumption
- Practicing good posture
These lifestyle choices do not guarantee facet joint syndrome will be avoided, but maximizing nutrients and blood flow to the spine while reducing the pressure being placed on it can potentially slow down the forces that lead to it.
If you do develop facet syndrome, however, your doctor can help you find pain relief by helping you develop a conservative treatment plan that includes:
- Physical therapy
- Hot/cold compresses
- Massage therapy
- Stretching and yoga
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Surgery can become an option for facet syndrome if there is spinal nerve compression and symptoms have not responded to conservative treatments. At USA Spine Care we provide a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery that offers our patients a shorter recovery time and lower risk of complication.^
To treat facet disease we perform a procedure called a facet thermal ablation that uses a laser to deaden sensory nerves that are causing pain. This procedure is typically performed in conjunction with a minimally invasive decompression procedure that removes spinal anatomy that is putting pressure on a spinal nerve root or the spinal cord. For more information about the minimally invasive spine surgery at USA Spine Care, contact us today.
We are happy to provide a free MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.
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