Facet syndrome is a form of osteoarthritis that affects the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are the sliding joints allowing the vertebrae of the spine slip over one another without losing contact. Why the body’s repair process fails to keep pace with its degeneration-giving arthritis remain unclear. What is known is that people older than age 50 are more likely to suffer from the effects of facet syndrome. Said differently, the aging process is a factor in the degeneration of the layers of cartilage that line the facet joint’s articular surfaces. One of the results is facet syndrome. In addition, other anatomical components of the spine lose water content as we age. In the case of facet joints, this means less synovial fluid is produced. Synovial fluid is the natural lubrication of the joint which reduces friction and wear. Loss of this fluid causes erosion of articular cartilage. Eventually one boney joint surface rubs against another.
Symptoms of Facet Syndrome
When cartilage wears away from facet joint articular surfaces, they become inflamed. The nerves that supply the joint capsule become irritated and painful producing, the deep aching sensation associated with many forms of arthritis. In addition, other parts of the body might experience referred pain. Referred pain is pain that travels the length of the affected nerve. This referred pain is more likely to arise in the presence of bone spurs (osteophytes). Bone spurs are bony protrusions that grow along the edges of the facet joint in a response to inflammation. Bone spurs themselves are not necessarily symptomatic. Only when bone spurs make contact with and compress adjacent nerve roots do symptoms such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness occur.
Treating Facet Syndrome
When pain and other symptoms associated with facet syndrome affect the ability to function in day-to-day life, it’s important to consult a physician concerning symptom management. Symptoms of arthritis can usually be managed using pain medication, physical therapy, behavior modification, corticosteroid injections, and other conservative treatment methods. If these methods fall short of expectations, surgery may be indicated. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about the many benefits of a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure performed using innovative endoscopic techniques. The orthopedic specialists at Laser Spine Institute have helped thousands of patients find safe, effective relief from the symptoms of facet syndrome.