Facet syndrome types are categorized by location. The facet joints are sliding joints which allow for spinal flexibility. Facet syndrome is acute pain and other symptoms that can arise when the facet joints are damaged or deteriorate with age. Facet syndrome can affect any level of the spine, but is most common in the flexible cervical (neck) and weight bearing lumbar (lower back) region. Because it is a form of degenerative process, facet syndrome’s root causes are relatively obscure. Why the body’s healing capacity does not keep pace with the degenerative process is not known. However, it is known that some people are genetically predisposed to develop the condition, and people age 50 or older are much more likely to suffer its effects.
Categories of Facet Syndrome
The location of the facet joint or joints affected by deterioration will determine how the condition is classified. The inflammation, which is part of facet syndrome, may irritate adjacent nerves. Interference with nerve function may cause referred pain. The location of the irritated nerve dictates the body part to which symptoms are referred.
- Lumbar – in the lower back, nerves compression caused by a facet joint abnormality can produce symptoms in the buttocks, hips, thighs, calves, and feet.
- Cervical – in the neck, it produces symptoms in the upper back, shoulders, arms, and fingers.
- Thoracic – in the upper and middle back, it produces symptoms in the torso.
Treating Different Facet Syndrome Types
Regardless of the location, a physician should initially attempt to treat symptoms associated with facet syndrome with pain or anti-inflammatory medication, behavior modification, physical therapy, exercise, and other conservative methods. Other techniques, such as radiofrequency neurotomy (“deadening” the joint nerve) and corticosteroid injections, might also be attempted. However, if symptoms persist for weeks or months, surgery might become an option. If so, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using innovative, endoscopic techniques may provide safe, effective relief.