Preventing Facet Syndrome

The primary risk factor for facet syndrome is something outside of our control: the natural aging process. While there are other risk factors, like lifestyle choices and genetics, the most common cause of facet disease is age-related changes that cause the deterioration of the spine.

Over time, the natural loss of water content combined with the wear and tear caused by years of bending, flexing, and twisting causes the protective layer of cartilage within the facet joints of the spine to deteriorate. As the layer of cartilage wears down, the vertebrae begin to rub against each other, causing bone-on-bone friction, leading to joint inflammation and bone spurs. Understanding what causes facet syndrome and the risk factors for this condition can help you make certain lifestyle choices to improve your overall spine health in the hopes of avoiding this condition.

What is Facet Syndrome?

Facet syndrome is a form of osteoarthritis that affects the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are the hinges that connect the vertebrae of the spine. These joints allow the vertebrae to pivot and move, which enables the spine to bend and flex. These joints are protected by a thin cartilage layer and lubricated by fluid that causes the joints to move smoothly.

The aging process is the main risk factor for facet syndrome because, over time, the cartilage and lubricating fluid begin to dry out, making it brittle and prone to deterioration. This natural breakdown of the cartilage on the facet joints and the resulting friction of the vertebrae can lead to facet syndrome. 

Treating and Preventing Facet Syndrome

Certain lifestyle choices can reduce your chances of developing facet syndrome. These lifestyle choices that promote overall spine health include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Avoiding tobacco
  • Exercising regularly
  • Moderating alcohol consumption
  • Practicing good posture

These lifestyle choices do not guarantee that facet joint syndrome will be avoided, but maximizing nutrients and blood flow to the spine while reducing the pressure on it can potentially slow down the forces that lead to it. If you do develop facet syndrome, however, your doctor can help you find pain relief by helping you develop a conservative treatment plan that includes the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Hot/cold compresses
  • Massage therapy
  • Stretching and yoga
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

When is Surgery Necessary?

Surgery may become an option if conservative efforts do not help you find relief. At BEST Health System, our board-certified surgeons specialize in minimally-invasive procedures. This allows for a quicker recovery time and less scarring. Contact BEST Health System today to learn more about our services.