Facet Syndrome

  • Facet joints are paired joints located on the posterior aspect of the spine at each level. The joints help to provide spinal stability and limit excess motion. The facet joints are lined with cartilage and surrounded by a lubricating capsule with nerve endings within the capsule and just outside of the capsule. The facet joint can cause pain via irritation to the joint from degenerative arthritis, trauma, and misalignment.  

 

  • Symptoms
    Facet joints pain can cause local tenderness over the joint in both the cervical and the lumbar spine.  In the low back, pain is often felt in the buttocks and can radiate into the posterior aspect of the thighs. In the neck, the pain can radiate into the trapezius muscles and upper shoulders and base of the neck. The pain is often made worse by bending backward or rotating.  If facet joints are inflamed, they can cause the nearby muscles of the spine to go into spasm. 

 

  • Treatment Options
    Various treatment options are available for facet joint pain.  Conservative therapy for joint pain includes anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. Maintaining good posture is particularly important as is learning to modify ones activities to avoid further damage and alleviate pain.  For persistent pain, X-ray guided injections facet joint injections can be performed to place medication directly into the joints at the source of the pain. If the patient responds to the facet nerve blocks then a procedure known as radio- frequency ablation can be performed to cause destruction of the small nerves of the joint offering up to 1 year of relief in symptoms.