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Facet syndrome is one of the common spinal conditions treated by the experts at Laser Spine Institute St. Louis

Facet syndrome affects the facet joints of the spine, which provide the connection between individual vertebrae and make it possible for the spine to bend and twist. The facet joints are coated with cartilage and synovial fluid, which cushion the joint and allow for easy movement.

Understanding facet syndrome

Facet syndrome, or spinal osteoarthritis, is defined as pain that develops in a joint connecting two vertebrae. This occurs when the cartilage in the joint wears away to a point in which it is no longer providing a cushion for the bones in the joint and they begin to rub together. Inflammation is the result, and bone spurs can also develop — potentially leading to additional symptoms.

Diagnosing facet syndrome

Before your physician makes a diagnosis of facet syndrome, a thorough physical examination will be needed. After reviewing your medical history and discussing the symptoms you are experiencing, your doctor will test your flexibility and range of motion to identify the areas of your body that are affected. If facet syndrome is suspected, an imaging procedure such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan will likely be used to confirm the diagnosis.

What causes facet syndrome to develop?

There’s not much that can be done to avoid the development of facet syndrome, which is caused by the constant pressure the spine endures through the years and is more common in patients ages 50 and older. When the facet joints move across cartilage while bearing the body’s weight, it’s inevitable that the cartilage will eventually begin to break down. Additionally, risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, a job that requires heavy exertion and high-impact sports can speed the progression of this condition.

Are facet syndrome symptoms easy to recognize?

Many of the symptoms of facet syndrome are similar to those produced by other degenerative spinal conditions. If a bone spur has developed in the joint and is making contact with a nerve root or the spinal cord, symptoms can include radiating pain and tingling, numbness and weakness in the extremities. Other troublesome symptoms of facet syndrome can include stiffness in the joints and the feeling of bone rubbing on bone during movement.

Are treatments available for facet syndrome?

The treatment plan that your physician prescribes for facet syndrome will likely focus on trying to reduce or eliminate your symptoms through a combination of nonsurgical options. This can include rest, strengthening exercises, hot/cold therapy and pain and anti-inflammatory medications. Lifestyle changes, which could help you shed excess weight, may also be suggested. Many patients also try to find relief for their symptoms through a combination of alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, yoga, chiropractic care and Pilates.

Facet syndrome surgery

For many patients, several months of conservative and alternative treatments — as well as lifestyle changes — allows them to experience relief from their facet syndrome symptoms. However, in cases where chronic pain continues to affect a patient’s daily life, surgery may be an option. At Laser Spine Institute in St. Louis we perform minimally invasive spine surgery for facet syndrome and other degenerative spinal conditions.

Contact us today to find out if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient surgery by getting a no-cost MRI review.*