Everything you need to know about Facet Joints and Facet Joint Syndrome
A common cause of back pain and neck pain is a condition called facet joint syndrome. Facet joints are located on either side of the vertebrae and help guide movement.
When these joints become injured, inflamed, or degenerated due to age, it can lead to facet joint pain. Facet joint syndrome often causes sharp lower back pain and can radiate into the buttocks, hips, legs or feet.
What is facet joint pain?
Facet joint pain, also known as facet syndrome or facet arthritis, is a type of back pain that affects the joints located between the vertebrae of the spine.
Facet joint syndrome can be caused by injury, facet joint degeneration, or excessive stress on the joints from activities such as heavy lifting.
Symptoms may include localized tenderness, restricted range of motion, muscle spasms, and radiating pain in the back or neck.
Treatments typically include rest, physical therapy exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the spine, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroid injections to reduce inflammation, and sometimes surgery. With proper treatment, most people can find relief from facet joint syndrome.
Acute Facet Pain
Acute facet joint syndrome is a sudden, intense episode of back pain or neck pain that can last for several days or weeks. It is caused by injury to the facet’s synovial joints and is often accompanied by swelling, tenderness, and muscle spasms in the area.
Treatment typically includes rest and over-the-counter pain relief medications to reduce inflammation in the synovial joints and pain. In some cases, steroid injections may be necessary to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Chronic Facet Pain
Chronic facet pain is a persistent form of back pain or neck pain that can last for months or years. It is usually caused by facet joint degeneration in the spine such as facet joint osteoarthritis, bone spurs or other conditions that damage the joints. Chronic pain can be particularly debilitating and is a leading cause of long term spine pain.
Treatment typically includes physical therapy exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the spine, anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid injections for pain relief and to reduce inflammation. Surgery may be necessary in more severe cases.
The Anatomy of the Facet Joint
The facet joint is one of the major joints in your spine that helps connect and stabilize each vertebrae. Each joint consists of two bony surfaces lined with cartilage and a fluid-filled joint capsule, which acts as a cushion between them.
The facets are designed to move when you twist or bend, but can get stuck if the muscles and ligaments become too tight or if the cartilage becomes damaged.
This can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the spine. In addition, inflammation around the facet joint can lead to further pain and discomfort.
Can facet joint pain cause degenerative disc disease?
Facet joint syndrome can be a contributing factor to degenerative disc disease. The facet joints, along with the discs between each vertebrae, provide stability and cushioning in the spine.
When the facet joints become worn down due to age or injury, they may not be able to provide enough support for the discs. This can lead to the discs thinning out and becoming weakened.
This is commonly known as facet joint osteoarthritis and is a key component of degenerative disc disease.
While facet joint syndrome can contribute to degenerative disc disease, it’s important to note that this isn’t always the case.
Many people experience back pain related to degenerative disc disease without any evidence of problems with their facet joints.
It’s important to speak with your doctor about your specific symptoms and get an accurate diagnosis.