Facet joint arthrosis – more commonly called facet joint osteoarthritis – is a degenerative condition that affects people as they age. Think about all the years of wear and tear that your spine undergoes in a lifetime — eventually, just as a door hinge wears out, your spine’s hinge-like joints will also start to deteriorate. In cases of arthrosis (or osteoarthritis), joint cartilage deteriorates – and joints depend on this cartilage to stay lithe and mobile. Cartilage is a soft connective tissue that covers facet joints in areas where bone touches bone. As you can imagine, this protective cartilage coating is forced to intercept quite a bit of strain and friction, so once cartilage wears away, the bone-on-bone contact leads to bone spurs, stiffness, and pain.
When we consider the term “facet joint arthrosis”, we’re focusing on the joints that are particular to the spine. Facet joints connect vertebrae to one another and are surrounded by cartilage and a synovial membrane that secretes synovial fluid, keeping the joints working like a well-oiled hinge. As the cartilage weakens, however, joint movement can become extremely difficult. Loss of flexibility, mobility, and the painful feeling of bone grinding against bone are just a few of the symptoms that can arise due to facet joint arthrosis.
It is important not to get this condition confused with spinal rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease characterized by the body attacking its own synovial membranes on joints. Rheumatoid arthritis causes the facet joints to become painfully inflamed. One way to tell the difference between facet joint osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is to ask yourself if the pain you feel in your spine ever seems warm—if so, you may be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, rather than facet joint arthrosis.
If you suspect you might be experiencing facet joint degeneration, you should consult a doctor. There are a variety of doctors that can diagnose this condition, though you could begin with your primary care physician, who will explore family history and physical symptoms in order to isolate your facet joint pain. Your primary care physician may send you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the joints. You could also consult an orthopedist, a specialist in musculoskeletal conditions. Don’t forget that, aside from your medical doctors, other professionals may be able to offer advice on this debilitating disease, such as acupuncturists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and yogis.
If you would like more information about relieving the symptoms of facet joint arthrosis with facet joint surgery, contact the experts at Laser Spine Institute (LSI) about our minimally invasive, endoscopic procedures. Begin the journey to rediscovering a life without pain by taking advantage of our free review of your MRI or CT scan.