Facet Syndrome is a condition in which the joints in the back of the spine degenerate and subsequently cause pain. The facet joints are found at every level on both sides of the lumbar spine. They provide about 20 percent of the twisting stability in the lower back. According to our back doctor, each facet joint is positioned at each level of the spine to provide the needed support especially with rotation.
Facet joints also prevent each vertebra from slipping over the one below. A small capsule surrounds each facet joint providing a nourishing lubricant for the joint. Also, each joint has a rich supply of tiny nerve fibers that provide a painful stimulus when the joint is injured or irritated. Inflamed facets can cause a powerful muscle spasm and acute back pain.
Facet joints are in almost constant motion with the spine and it is quite common for them to simply wear out, as we’ve seen in many patients from Portsmouth, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. When facet joints become worn or torn, the cartilage may become thin or disappear. The bone in the joint underneath can produce an overgrowth of bone spurs and an enlargement of the joints. When that happens, our back doctor says the joint has arthritic changes, or osteoarthritis, which can produce acute back pain when a person moves. This condition may also be referred to as facet joint disease, or facet joint syndrome.
The patient with a typical facet syndrome will complain of symptoms such as a sudden onset of unilateral or bilateral low back pain with or without radicular pain extending into the extremity.
The pain generally increases with motion (particularly with extension) and is relieved by rest. Facet pain, unlike disc pain, is not increased by coughing and sneezing.
At the Spine and Orthopedic Pain Center, diagnosis begins with a detailed examination, including a thorough medical history. Diagnostic testing may include x-rays, CT scan, MRI and a facet injection. The facet injection enables your back doctor to precisely identify the cause of pain. Using x-ray guidance, our doctor can inject the affected joints with anti-inflammatory medication.
Use of anti-inflammatory and pain medications can be useful.
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Make an appointment to meet with Dr. Bragg to discuss how you may reduce your pain from Facet Syndrome.