The facet joints in the spine play a critical role in comfortable movement and proper support for the weight of the upper body. When facet joints are functioning well, people are able to perform normal daily activities by bending, leaning, and changing positions with ease. Certain situations, however, can trigger the development of facet syndrome, a painful and sometimes restricting health condition.
Oftentimes, facet syndrome develops when the facet joints become inflamed or worn from repetitive movements, straining and abnormal positions, and chronically-poor posture. Spinal trauma sustained in an accident could also lead to the condition. Other health disorders, such as spinal arthritis or degenerative disc disease, may trigger the onset of facet syndrome as well.
The symptoms associated with facet syndrome might vary from person to person. Persistent or intermittent pain is generally the most common symptom and may affect the base of the neck, shoulders, back, or hips and buttocks. The pain is the result of uncontrollable or restricted movement within the facet joints or from the inflamed tissue. Long periods of inactivity may aggravate the condition and produce stiffness that could make it difficult to transition to a new position, such as standing after sitting for hours at a desk. Conversely, pain generating from certain facet joints could also make sitting for periods of time a painful endeavor for some people.
Treatment for facet syndrome is typically geared toward pain management, improving stability, and reestablishing flexibility. A careful individualized regimen of pain medication may contribute to some relief from symptoms. In some cases, however, pain might be controlled with minimal pharmaceutical intervention depending on the treatment therapies used and the health needs of each individual. Treatment options for people suffering from facet syndrome could include one or more of the following:
- Anti-inflammatory corticosteroid injections: X-rays indicate placement of a combination of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids and a local anesthetic into the facet joints to provide diagnosis and pain relief for up to six months.
- Cryotherapy: This pain management technique is designed to interrupt pain sensation by exposing nerves to pressurized liquid nitrous oxide, possibly allowing a patient to avoid medicinal or surgical intervention and keeping surrounding tissue unaffected and undamaged.
- Spinal cord stimulation: An implantable device changes the way pain is perceived by the rest of the body by channeling a mild electrical current to the spinal cord from its position in the spinal epidural space.
- Prolotherapy: This treatment option is part of regenerative medicine and calls for controlled irritation of ligaments and tendons that could be contributing to pain in order to trigger the body’s natural ability to heal and promote healthy tissue regeneration.
The key to the diagnosis and treatment of facet syndrome is getting appropriate medical attention for the specific symptoms affecting the individual. An accurate diagnosis is important for patient care in order to rule out or identify other possible reasons for the presenting symptoms and invites the application of a recommended therapy for relieving discomfort. Some types of treatment also play a role in the diagnosis of the condition, such as the injection of anti-inflammatory corticosteroids with a local anesthetic. Any resulting relief, for example, may allow the medical professional to narrow down that the problem involves the facet joints.
Facet syndrome can be disabling and painful for many people. Thus, the prescribed treatment could be instrumental in improving overall well-being and achieving a higher-quality of life by minimizing or breaking up episodes of pain and restoring the ability to move safely while performing daily activities. Some situations may only call for simple lifestyle changes while others warrant ongoing monitoring from a professional familiar with the condition. Regardless of the specific cause of facet syndrome, the primary plan is to focus on individualized healing and getting closer to achieving one’s health goals.