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Facet Syndrome and Back Pain

Facet joints are sections of the spine where the vertebrae connect to one another. The facet joints enable a specific variety of movements for each vertebral level while providing strength, flexibility and integrity to the spine. Pain in the facet joints gives rise to a condition known as Facet Joint Syndrome. This syndrome is sometimes also known as Facet Joint Disease, or simply Facet Syndrome.

What Causes Facet Joint Degeneration?

1.) Osteoarthritis – is the main culprit in Facet Joint Syndrome. While the natural ageing process normally brings about conditions like osteoarthritis and facet joint degeneration, only a small slice of the population is liable to experience pain symptoms from these ailments. The source of the pain usually stems from bone spurs that develop around the facet joints that can constrict a nerve or two, causing sciatica.

2.) Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) – can also result in Facet Joint Syndrome. While not usually painful, the normal wearing away of the spinal discs causes the vertebral bones to rub against one another, bone against bone.

3.) Excessive Use of the Spine – athletes like gymnasts and acrobats are more prone to an early onset of Facet Joint Syndrome because the rigors of their sport cause exceptional deterioration in their vertebral discs.

Some Symptoms of Facet Joint Syndrome

It will be difficult to pinpoint Face Joint Syndrome based on the symptoms of the disease, as many of them are remarkably similar to back pain. Joint pain may also be caused by other underlying factors, like osteoarthritis, in which case Facet Syndrome becomes merely a symptom and not the ailment itself. Some of the symptoms of Facet Joint Disease include:

1.) Severe spinal pain, particularly when engaged in movement.
2.) Stiffness and limited motion ability in the area of the back.
3.) Pain becomes worse upon bending backwards or straightening the back.
4.) When the lumbar nerve is affected, sciatica symptoms may occur.
5.) An onset of Pinched Nerve symptoms may arise, particularly in the area of the cervical spine.

Possible Treatments for Facet Joint Syndrome

1.) Physical Therapy – helps maintain flexibility in the joints, maintains maximum scope of motion, enhances circulation and aids in oxygenation.

2.) Drugs – over-the-counter or prescription medications.

3.) Heat Therapy – if this type of therapy works, it may mean that Facet Syndrome may not be the real cause of the pain symptoms. Heat therapy is normally used to relieve pain from oxygen deficiency or muscle strains, atypical of most skeletal treatments.

4.) Chiropractic – if the chiropractic method of bone manipulation works, the pain symptoms may not be due to Facet Syndrome at all.

5.) Posture – correcting the posture or assuming the proper posture may be all it takes to relieve sufferers of back pain.

6.) Acupuncture – an ancient holistic remedy for pain relief.

7.) Surgery – usually the last resort, Laminectormy or spinal fusion may be undertaken to relieve acute pain. Some of the newer treatment procedures kill the nerve endings in the affected facet joint. Known as Facet Rhizotomy, it involves a minimal invasive process and may ultimately be preferable to open surgery.

Additional information on treatment options can be found in the TREATMENT page.

Recommendations in the Treatment Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet Joint Syndrome is normally caused by advancing age. Most people will, at some older stage in their life, experience symptoms of this condition. Minor symptoms are not usually a cause for concern. They may be remedied by thorough research on the condition (knowledge therapy), and natural and holistic treatments which are preferable to prescription or over-the-counter medication.

It is likely that severe pain symptoms may not stem from Facet Joint Syndrome, and if surgery becomes the only alternative, it is advisable to ascertain that the correct diagnosis has been made.


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