Facet Joint Syndrome
What is Facet Joint Syndrome?
Facet joint syndrome is the general diagnosis of pain at the joint between two spinal vertebrae and commonly referred to as osteoarthritis. Facet joints are essential, as they are what allow you to bend and twist. Healthy facet joints contain cartilage and are lubricated with synovial fluid, which provides a buffer that enables vertebrae to move against each other without grinding or pinching. Each segment of the spine has three joints that allow for movement. Each vertebra has two facet joints in the rear and a sizeable intervertebral disc toward the front. The facet joints are the connections between vertebrae. This layout provides stability to the spine and allows you to bend and twist. When facet joints are injured — by trauma or aging — they can limit movement or make movement incredibly uncomfortable.
The facet joints are often the cause of back problems. Unfortunately, facet joint disorders are commonly recurrent and are generally disabling for patients who suffer from them. You might be suffering from facet joint syndrome if you experience chronic pain and or severe spasms anywhere in your neck or back and it worsens when standing or leaning backward.
Over time, a combination of natural aging and continuous pressure on the joints — or a single injury — can cause the cartilage to wear away. As pressure continues, the discs between vertebrae begin to wear down and can collapse. When this happens, the space between vertebrae is diminished. When the osteoarthritis progresses, the cartilage and synovial fluid that protects the facet joints may be wholly destroyed, leaving bone to rub against bone.
Facet joint syndrome is a prevalent form of arthritis, and when seen in older adults, results from normal wear and tear and can be exacerbated by injury — such as whiplash. Facet joint syndrome may affect younger people and is usually related to an injury or overuse. Millions of Americans suffer every day from this condition, but they find ways to cope and adjust their lifestyle for fear of surgery. When you visit the spine specialists at the International Spine Institute, we can discuss a variety of treatment options that will put your mind at ease. Don’t suffer longer than you have to.