What Is Facet Joint Syndrome?

Unlike spinal conditions caused by acute injury, facet joint syndrome develops with age. Facet joints are located in the spine, and help with normal range of motion like twisting from side to side. Each joint is lined with a nerve-rich substance called “synovial tissue“.

facet joint syndrome bone contact

Symptoms & Causes

By far, the most common symptom of facet joint syndrome is pain. Specifically, suffers will experience pain in the lower back region. The sensation of pain is caused by tiny nerves and tissues that get compressed. Other symptoms occur at the anatomical level, and are less likely to be “felt”. These symptoms include:

  • less water volume in the joints
  • off-centered joints
  • bone-on-bone contact
  • osteophytes (caused by arthritis)

Can Facet Joint Syndrome Be Cured Without Surgery?

Because facet joint syndrome develops with age, there is no way to “cure” it with non-surgical treatments. However, the vast majority of people are able to manage their symptoms without surgery for many years.

One option is to avoid activities that are known to aggravate the facet joins. Any twisting of the spine has the potential for injury. A few of the known culprits are:

  • golf
  • over-extending
  • leaning backward

Another option is to explore several pain management treatments. The key is to work your way up, starting with the less aggressive treatments first. For example, in the early stages, good old fashioned rest is enough to do the trick.

Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac, and other similar anti-inflammatories will help for a few years, too. Next, you might consider prescription drugs (cortisone, novocaine, etc.)

Finally, RFA (or radiofrequency ablation) can also be used to manage pain for up to 12 months.

More Aggressive And Permanent Treatment Options

Unfortunately, the less aggressive treatments mentioned above are temporary and offer limited relief from the symptoms caused by facet joint syndrome. When a more permanent solution is needed, surgery can help. There are two different surgical options to consider: Spinal Fusion, and something called Facet Debridement.

Spinal fusion is the more dramatic and risky of the two surgical options. Because of the invasiveness of this approach, recovery time is quite long and complications are not uncommon. Studies show that the success-rate of this surgery is only 66%. In other words, more than 3 out of 10 people still experience pain afterwards.

On the other hand, facet debridement is performed with an endoscope. This instrument allows the surgeon to operate through a much smaller incision. Dr. Mork uses laser technology to remove pieces of the capsule and affected tissues. Over the course of two years, 77%% of his patients reported (at least) 50% less pain.

What Steps Can You Take Today?

Dr. Tony Mork is an endoscopic spine specialist, author and public speaker. He puts his experience from 30+ years of successful spine surgeries to use and offers free patient consultations. Get in touch with his team to schedule your complimentary MRI evaluation.