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An Overview of Facet Joint Disease and Treatment Options - Spine Center of Texas
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An Overview of Facet Joint Disease and Treatment Options

Facet Joint Disease, sometimes called Facet Joint Syndrome, occurs when the stabilizing joints behind and between sections of vertebrae become irritated, producing mild to severe pain. Facet joints are present at every level of the spine except the top, and help limit twisting and turning to prevent vertebrae from sliding. Athletes tend to be most prone to facet joint disease because of the variety of movements their bodies go through. Facet Joint Disease is very treatable and often heals with a conservative approach.

Facet joints are a very common source of back and neck pain and begin to deteriorate with injury and age. Because of their repetitive use in supporting alignment of the spine, the joint cartilage wears down and can disappear. Thus, bone growth can start, causing osteoarthritis to set in. The facets then become inflamed, often triggering spasms in the back muscles.

Symptoms of facet joint disease are unpredictable, often occurring a handful of times per month without warning. They are usually found close to the affected joint and can mimic a herniated disc, fracture, infection, or torn spinal muscle. People suffering from facet joint disease often experience the following:

  • Numbness, weakness, tenderness or stiffness
  • Pain with bending and twisting, causing flexibility loss
  • Pain in the neck, arms, and shoulders when the cervical vertebrae are affected
  • Pain in the low back, buttocks, and upper leg when lumbar vertebrae are affected

Physicians diagnose facet joint disease by performing a thorough review of medical history and conducting a physical assessment with an emphasis on current symptoms. An X-ray, CT scan, and nerve block injection will offer further proof of the condition.

Facet Joint Disease management starts with cold and hot packs and medication for inflammation. Physical therapy follows, with instruction on proper posture, stretching and strengthening exercises, and activity modification when needed. Massage, ultrasound and electric stimulation are available for individuals experiencing muscle spasms. Chiropractic manipulation can offer more relief when needed. A restraining collar gives support for people suffering from facet joint disease in the neck. Radiofrequency ablation and facet rhizotomy can alleviate nerve pain and are options to consider. Surgery is a last resort, often involving fusion.

If you have been experiencing pain from facet joint disease and would like to discuss the treatment options we provide, please call us at either our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.