For those suffering from chronic back pain, the possibility of a ruptured disc or a pinched nerve may have crossed their minds; but what about facet disease? Learning more about this degenerative spine condition could not only help diagnose the condition, but also treat it more effectively.
Facet Joint Basics
In order to understand facet disease, a patient must first understand the role of the facet joint. The facet joint is located in the spine and acts as a small connector running along the lower, mid-back and neck section of the spine. The facet joints allow for vertebral stability in movements such as bending forward, back, sideways or twisting. The facet joint’s role is to make sure the vertebrae are well supported so the body may handle all of the bending and twisting it requires without straining or causing any damage.
Causes and Symptoms of Facet Disease
Many things, including age, genetics and injury, can cause degenerative facet disease. This condition appears when the facet joint wears out and inflammation begins due to continuous use or trauma to the joint area.
There is one telltale sign of facet disease: pain when hyper extending or tilting (bending backwards) the lumbar or cervical spine or twisting. Symptoms of facet disease in the neck can also include headaches that radiate up the back of the head. Patients often can find some symptom relief by bending forward.
Treating Facet Disease
Degenerative facet disease treatment focuses on the reduction of arthritic symptoms, including pain and inflammation. Non-surgical options include regular exercise to strengthen the spine and surrounding muscles to alleviate strain; use of anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers; cold/heat therapy; chiropractic care; pain management injections and small procedures such as radio frequency ablation.
While uncommon, there are cases severe enough to require surgical measures. In these cases, spine stabilization surgery is performed in order to prevent further degeneration of the adjoining disc, a common progression with facet disease. This surgery will also prevent the eventual debilitating changes that could hinder the patient’s ability to engage in an active lifestyle. There are also a variety of minimally invasive surgical options for degenerative facet disease treatment. These options can be explored with the help of highly qualified, fellowship-trained professionals.