Facet syndrome, or spinal osteoarthritis, affects the small joints that link the vertebrae together. Over time, the protective cartilage that lines the facet joints can gradually break down and wear away, leading to painful bone-on-bone friction. In addition to pain around an affected joint, facet syndrome can also cause spinal nerve compression, which can produce traveling pain, numbness, and muscle weakness.
Why is the Lumbar Spine Susceptible to Facet Syndrome?
While arthritic changes can take place anywhere in the spinal column, the lower back is particularly vulnerable to the effects of aging, which can lead to the development of a number of degenerative spine conditions, including facet syndrome. The reason? The lumbar spine supports the majority of the body’s weight and connects directly to the pelvis, which is the spinal region most affected by the body movement.
For example, the lumbar spine can easily be strained through various activities, such as:
- Bending to lift a heavy item
- Twisting to move a heavy object
- Carrying a hefty load
- Sitting for extended periods of time
The spinal strain that results from these activities can damage the facet joints in the lumbar spine and further accelerate the rate of natural spinal degeneration.
Treating Lumbar Facet Syndrome
When treating lumbar facet syndrome, most physicians advise their patients to begin treatment conservatively. For instance, many people find that a combination of two or more of the following options is sufficient to relieve their lumbar facet syndrome symptoms.
- Lifestyle Modifications – It can be beneficial to practice good posture, lose excess body weight, use proper lifting techniques, and avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time.
- Physical Therapy – Exercise can stretch and strengthen the core muscles that support the spine allowing them to take on some of the weight burden that was previously allocated to weakened facet joints.
- Hot and Cold Compresses – The topical application of ice to the affected area can numb pain and reduce inflammation, while moist heat can promote the flow of blood and healing nutrients to the tissues surrounding a damaged joint.
- Medications – Your physician may initially recommend an over-the-counter nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drug, such as ibuprofen, or prescribe a stronger medication if needed.
- Face Joint Blocks – Your physician can inject a medication directly into a painful facet joint. Since the medication will produce a temporary numbing effect, immediate pain relief can serve as a confirmation that the problematic joint has been properly identified. These effects can last for several weeks, also serving as a beneficial form of treatment.
In the case that a conservative treatment plan is ineffective and your lumbar facet syndrome symptoms persist, you may be a candidate for surgery.
Can Non Surgical Face Syndrome Treatment Provide Lasting Relief?
While nonsurgical treatments can often break a cycle of acute facet syndrome pain, the relief is usually temporary. If the symptoms return with increasing frequency or intensity, it may be appropriate to consider a surgical procedure. If you are interested in learning more about surgical options for treating lumbar facet syndrome, you can read about it here.
BEST Health System
It’s time to leave overly-invasive surgical procedures in the past. BEST Health System is the leader in minimally-invasive spine surgery which allows for a smaller incision and shorter recovery period. Reach out to our dedicated team today to learn more about treating lumbar facet syndrome.