Facet Joint Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment in Dallas & Mansfield, TX is the spine or spinal cord is made of a column of moveable bones called vertebrae. The facet joint is a three-joint complex. It keeps the vertebrae connected together and allows you to bend and twist. Facets are synovial joints lubricated in synovial fluid and covered by a joint capsule. The facet joints glide and slide as you move your back in different directions.
Degenerative changes that occur as you grow older cause the facet to lose synovial fluid. Wear and tear begins to occur on the facet joint over time. The body weight may also cause the facet joint to shift unevenly. The facet joint begins to thin out and break down. Bone spurs may also occur.
As all these changes occur, it becomes difficult for the facet joint to move freely. Friction begins to increase and the facet joint gets irritated and inflamed. This triggers pain signals in the nearby nerve endings. When this happens, you will begin to feel pain in the affected area.
The pain you feel as a result of an irritated or inflamed facet joint is known as facet joint syndrome.
A facet joint syndrome can cause significant pain in your back or neck.
Causes of Facet Joint Syndrome
Wears and tear of the cartilage as you grow older is the common cause of facet joint syndrome.
Other causes include:
- Injury or trauma
- Repetitive movements
- Poor posture
- Conditions in the spine that change the way the facet joints align and move.
- Deteriorating vertebrae disc
- Bone spur
Symptoms of Facet Joint Syndrome
Symptoms of facet joint syndrome include:
- Sharp, shooting pain in your back that may spread to your buttocks
- Pain in your neck that spreads toward your shoulders
- Pain when you bend backward or twist sideways
- Pain you feel when you stand after sitting or lying down for a long period of time.
- Pain may be chronic or comes and go periodically
Diagnosis of Facet Joint Syndrome
During diagnosis, your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical exam. Your doctor will apply pressure on the affected area to feel for tenderness and ascertain the exact area you feel pain and the level of pain. Your doctor will ask you some questions about the kind of pain you feel and when you feel the pain more.
Your doctor may you to stand or move in different positions. You will be asked to point out the areas you feel pain.
Your doctor may conduct imaging studies such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI, to view the internal structure of your spine and check for any problems.
Your doctor may conduct a facet joint injection to know if the facet joint is actually causing the pain. A local anesthetic and corticosteroid medication will be injected into the facet joint with the aid of X-ray fluoroscopy. If you feel pain relief when the medication is injected, it means that the facet joint is likely the cause of your pain but if you don’t feel pain relief it likely means that the facet joint is not the cause of your pain.
Treatment of Facet Joint Syndrome
The type of treatment that will be used depends on the severity of your condition. A combination of treatments may also be used to relieve your pain.
Treatment options include:
Making necessary adjustments
You can manage your pain by practicing correct posture and keeping your spine aligned. Make adjustments to how you stand every day, sit, and sleep. Do not sit, lie, or stand for a very long period of time. Take out some minutes in between and take some walks.
Apply ice and heat
Applying ice packs wrapped in a towel on the affected area can help relieve pain and inflammation. After some days, you can also apply heat pads to relieve pain.
Massaging the area where you feel pain can help relieve pain. You can get a massage therapist to help you with the massage.
Engaging in certain stretching and strengthening exercises can be very helpful. A physical therapist will instruct you on the best exercise to do.
Over-the-counter pain relievers
Taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help relieve facet joint pain.
Topical patches and creams can be applied to the affected area to relieve pain.
Steroid joint injections
Injecting corticosteroids into the affected joint can help relieve pain and inflammation. The corticosteroids block or numb the nerve transmitting the pain signals to the brain. Corticosteroids injection is an effective and long-lasting treatment for facet joint syndrome.
Nerve radiofrequency ablation
This is a procedure whereby the nerves transmitting the pain signals to the brain are ablated (burnt). This stops the transmission of pain to the brain and invariably stops the pain. This procedure provides long-lasting pain relief.
Surgery is the last option if all other treatments have failed to provide pain relief or improve your condition. Surgery may be needed to fix the joint or bone that is causing the pain.