In the spine, the facet joints link the vertebrae and allow for basic movement. Facet Joint Syndrome is a type of osteoarthritis that affects the facet joints. When the facet joints that are affected are located in the neck or cervical spine, pain in that area is typically reported, along with headaches and discomfort or difficulty while rotating the head. Those who have been diagnosed with Facet Joint Syndrome often report a significantly decreased quality of life as enjoying everyday social events and activities can be difficult. Some people with this syndrome also report challenges with sleeping.
Most people who suffer with Facet Joint Syndrome will tell you that they have to turn their entire body simply to look to the right or left. Pain and stiffness from this syndrome can also be felt in the shoulders, middle of the back, lower back, buttocks, and even the thighs. Typically, pain resulting from Facet Joint Syndrome does not occur lower than the knee. Tingling, numbness, and weakness in the arms and hands may also be experienced. Many of those who suffer from Facet Joint Syndrome also walk in a hunched over position, have difficulty twisting, bending and arching, and may have trouble getting out of a chair.
Who Is Affected?
It is important to be mindful of the fact that any activity, habit, or health condition that puts great stress and pressure on the spine can lead to spinal degeneration. When the spine begins to wear down (degenerate), conditions such as Facet Joint Syndrome can develop. To give specific examples, being overweight, poor posture, impact sports, injury, improperly lifting heavy weights, or leading a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to developing Facet Joint Syndrome. Furthermore, smoking cigarettes, failing to eat a healthy and balanced diet, and alcohol abuse can also lead to Facet Joint Syndrome as these lifestyle choices are detrimental to bone and joint health.
Generally, those who are diagnosed with Facet Joint Syndrome will want to first try conservative, nonsurgical treatment options. These could include pain medications, physical therapy, massage therapy, and simply using heat and ice to manage the symptoms. If the patient is overweight, weight management may also be prescribed. If the patient smokes, uses drugs, or abuses alcohol, getting the necessary support to stop these habits is of paramount importance as all are detrimental to one’s bone, joint, and spine health. If the patient regularly lifts heavy weights or participates in contact sports, a recommendation may also be made to stop these activities as continuing may worsen the condition. If after six months all of these efforts fail to produce a favorable result and better quality of life for the patient, surgery may be the best option.
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At the Stridewell Same-Day Spine Clinic, we properly diagnose the patient’s condition and counsel them about their very best treatment options. If surgery will eventually be needed, we are sure to discuss these options as well and ensure that the patient receives care from a top surgeon who has been extensively trained in minimally invasive techniques. Stridewell Tipsread article