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Facet Joint Syndrome

An Overview Of Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet joint syndrome is a condition that is often not widely discussed with people who may be at risk of developing the condition. Many people who find themselves struggling with the back pain related to this condition are not knowledgeable enough about facet joint syndrome to know when it’s time to seek treatment for chronic pain.

About The Syndrome

Facet joint syndrome is a disorder that relates to the joints in the spine that connect vertebrae. These joints are filled with cartilage that protects the bones from grinding together. Damage in these joints can lead to disorders that are similar to arthritis.

Facet Joint Anatomy
Sufferers are often unaware that it is possible for the cartilage in these joints to wear down. Low back pain  or neck pain may be attributed to other sources when this syndrome is the cause of chronic pain.

Causes Of The Syndrome

Injuries that lead to chronic pain in the back, neck and head can typically be attributed to arthritis or overuse of these joints. It is possible for a person to begin suffering from this syndrome after being involved in an accident that damages the spine.

Elderly people are more likely to develop this disorder than any other age demographic. Lifestyle factors like obesity and lack of physical activity can also contribute to development of the syndrome. Some people are susceptible to the syndrome because of gender or genetics.

Signs And Symptoms Of The Syndrome

Headache, back pain or neck pain are all signs of the syndrome. Most people need to experience headache or pain in the back or neck on a regular basis in order for the disorder to be diagnosed.

Pain can be felt in the lower back and throughout the buttocks in most sufferers. Pain in the shoulders and neck that radiates upward from the back can be related to damage in the cervical vertebrae.

Back Pain from Facet Joint Syndrome

Treatment Options

Patients must be evaluated by a trained pain management doctor in order to receive a diagnosis and discuss treatment options. Pain management doctors are skilled in providing treatment for people who are suffering from chronic forms of pain. Medication management with anti-inflammatories and analgesics are the first line of treatment. Adjuncts, including physical therapy and acupuncture may also be beneficial. Diagnostic medial branch blocks help elucidate whether the facet joint is contributing to the patient’s symptoms and guide further therapy. After two successive diagnostic injections are deemed positive for facet joint syndrome, consideration is given to radiofrequency ablation of the nerves that supply the affected facet joints. Thermal destruction of the nerve prevents transmission of pain impulses to higher centers in the brain, helping to diminish pain sensation.