Facet Disease – Your Treatment Options

What is Facet Disease

If you have been diagnosed with facet disease, you are probably wondering what your next steps are. You should start by researching the options for facet disease treatment that are available to you. Most likely, your doctor will recommend a series of conservative treatments, to begin with, so start your research there. Determine the facet disease treatments you think would work best for you. Make sure to consider symptoms and lifestyle. Then have a conversation with your doctor about your options.

Most often, facet disease will occur in the lumbar (lower) spine due to its high mobility. Spine Health reports that 15-45% of lower back pain originated from the lumbar facets. Facet disease can also commonly occur in the cervical (upper) spine. It does not occur in the thoracic (middle) spine as frequently since it is less mobile. 

What Causes Facet Disease

Osteoarthritis is the wearing away of the soft, smooth coating of cartilage on joints over time. Joints don’t function with the same fluidity when the cartilage wears away. Joint movement feels rough, stiff, and painful.

Facet disease goes by several other names as well. These include facet arthritis, facet joint syndrome, facet hypertrophy, and degenerative facet joints. Facet disorders, if not properly diagnosed and treated, can lead to recurring neck and back problems. These issues can limit your ability to perform daily activities, such as your ability to work or do chores. You can learn more about what facet disease is and why it occurs by visiting our guide to facet disease.

Facet Disease Treatment

When the facet joints begin to wear down after many years of use, these joints can become inflamed and tender. The associated pain may be localized in the neck or lower back, or radiate down the shoulder or upper thigh. Some flexibility will be lost, and leaning backward can cause discomfort. There are many facet disease treatment options, however, that can be beneficial in providing temporary relief for symptoms.

If you’re experiencing what you believe to be facet disease symptoms, contact your physician or health care provider. He or she can properly diagnose the cause of your back pain and prescribe facet disease treatment. In many cases, the facet disease symptoms can be effectively managed without surgery. There are plenty of methods that can be used to relieve the discomfort that can stem from facet disease.

Of course, these facet disease treatments are not designed to “cure” the problem. The effects of any kind of osteoarthritis, including facet disease, are irreversible. That’s because lost cartilage does not regrow. Instead, the ultimate goal of facet disease treatment is to help a patient manage their back pain. As well as maintain or even improve overall spinal flexibility.

Conservative Facet Disease Treatment

While conservative facet disease treatment can be successful, finding the right treatment or treatments that will work for your specific case can sometimes take time. You should have the right frame of mind before beginning conservative treatment, as many weeks or months can sometimes be required before you begin to experience results.

Furthermore, while there are many different treatment types available, each patient is different and what works for one person might not work for another. When outlining a conservative facet disease treatment plan, your physician will keep a number of factors in mind, including your age, overall health, the underlying cause of the problem, the severity of the facet disease symptoms, and other factors.

With this perspective in mind, here are some examples of popular conservative treatments that many patients turn to when they are experiencing the facet disease symptoms:

Nonprescription medications:

Use medications to help provide relief from neck or back pain because it can have two benefits. First, pain medication can relieve pain and provide much-needed relief in the short term. And, a break from the pain provides you with the opportunity to explore various other treatment options, such as exercise and physical therapy, which might be impossible when the pain is severe.

Diagnostic facet injections:

Diagnostic facet injections can be helpful for identifying the exact source of your discomfort, as well as relieving your back pain for a period of time. During this common procedure, a mild anesthetic is injected into the facet joint that is believed to be causing your pain. If you experience pain relief right away, your physician will know the cause and location of the issue. If relief doesn’t occur, your physician knows that another facet joint or factor is contributing to the discomfort.

Yoga, or other low-impact stretching exercises:

Stretching techniques can be very effective for increasing flexibility in core muscles and alleviating some of the pressure placed on the spine and facet joints. Stretching can also help improve posture and relax you. With that said, it is very important that you work closely with a physician or physical therapist before beginning any stretching exercises, as the wrong approach can make matters worse.

Strength training for muscle tone:

The right type of training can increase strength in the core and back muscles that help support the spinal column, alleviating strain on the facet joints. Make sure a health care provider is there to monitor any strength training to prevent further spinal damage.

Water therapy, such as swimming:

Low-impact exercises, such as swimming, can be very effective for addressing back problems. Consider running in comparison. When a person runs, each stride is quite jarring as the feet hit the pavement. This stress radiates along the spine and can be unbearable to a person with low back pain. Hydrotherapy, on the other hand, does not involve the same difficult repetitive movements. Plus, warm water can help relax muscles and provide some degree of pain relief.

Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulations:

While the source of some contention in the medical community, chiropractic therapy can be an effective facet disease treatment according to anecdotal evidence provided by patients who’ve tried it. The central goal of this treatment is to ensure the proper alignment of the spine and to loosen tight and sore muscles that may be contributing to your discomfort.

Posture corrections:

Poor posture can contribute to upper and lower back pain. Improving one’s posture while sitting, standing, and lying down can have a big impact on overall spine health and help ensure a so-called neutral spine alignment.

Activity modification:

Oftentimes, a physician will recommend a series of lifestyle adjustments to remove factors from a patient’s life that are contributing to spine pain. Quitting smoking is an example of a lifestyle modification that can help reduce symptoms. Smoking affects the discs and other cartilage in the spine and makes an individual more susceptible to degenerative spine conditions, such as facet disease. Other examples of lifestyle changes include dieting and limiting alcohol consumption.

The use of a back brace:

A back brace serves as a temporary stop-gap that can help reduce strain on the lower back and assist in improving posture. However, this isn’t a treatment of facet disease so much as it is a temporary way to reduce pain.


Limited rest can be effective when a person is experiencing back pain because it can allow tense muscles to loosen and facilitate healing. That said, rest is a short-term option and prolonged periods of inactivity can actually make back pain significantly worse.

Some patients who are experiencing pain and reduced mobility associated with osteoarthritis of the facet joints may require more than nonsurgical facet disease treatment to regain function. If this is the case for you, there are other options available for pain relief besides highly invasive open spine surgery, such as the minimally invasive outpatient procedures performed at BEST Health System. 

What BEST Health System Can Do For You

BEST Health System specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery that is a safer and more effective alternative to traditional open back procedures and offers many benefits, including less risk of infection and no lengthy recovery. For more information on how BEST can help you find relief from chronic neck and back pain, contact us today.