The superior facet, also called the superior articular process, is a pair of facet joints between pairs of vertebrae. A facet joint is what holds two vertebrae together and each vertebra contains two pairs, an upper-facing superior facet pair and a lower-facing inferior facet pair. Since “articular” refers to movement, we know that these joints allow the vertebrae to bend, flex, and hinge in tandem. They also are synovial joints, meaning that the joint contains cartilage for cushioning and a sac of ligament and tissue that self-lubricates, or produces synovial fluid so that the joints can function smoothly.
Because the superior facet handles the spine’s stability, support, and mobility, it is prone to wear and tear over time, just like any other joint in the body. As we age, facet joints can become more brittle because the cartilage wears away, thus creating painful friction in the affected area when we move. The degeneration of a superior facet or inferior facet joint, referred to as facet disease, can occur in any region of the spine: the cervical spine (upper), thoracic spine (middle), or lumbar spine (lower).
Other conditions that can affect the facet joints are facet joint syndrome, facet arthritis, facet hypertrophy, or spondylolithesis (when one vertebra slips forward over another one). One possible treatment option for painful facet joints is laser facet thermal ablation at Laser Spine Institute (LSI). This is a procedure that involves the following steps:
- A numbing medication is injected into the facet joint. If this injection relieves pain immediately, then the facet joint problem is confirmed and the next step is the laser facet thermal ablation procedure.
- Localized anesthesia and deep IV sedation is administered to the patient before the procedure.
- A small laser is used to clean the facet joint.
- The local nerves serving the joint are then gently desensitized, or deadened, using heat (similar to what is done to oral nerves during a root canal).
If you are interested in learning more about pain relief in your superior facet joint, contact Laser Spine Institute about facet thermal ablation. LSI is at the forefront of innovative, minimally-invasive procedures that can help you rediscover a life without pain. Contact us today for a free review of your MRI or CT scan.