Facet disease can be a little confusing to understand — partially because the condition can be described using many names, including spinal osteoarthritis — but they all refer to the same general process of the deterioration of spinal joints.
A Quick Anatomy Lesson
Before you can understand what facet disease is, you need to understand some basics about the anatomy of the spine. The facet joints are the joints that connect each bone of the spine to the adjacent bones. When healthy, these joints facilitate twisting or bending in the spine as the body moves throughout the day. However, due to one reason or another (including wear and tear, repetitive motion, or traumatic impact), the cartilage, or the slippery material that coats the bones of the joint, can become worn down. Because this material is essential to reducing friction and facilitating the movement of the joint, its loss often has a large impact on a person’s mobility.
Facet Disease Symptoms
When the spinal joints’ cartilage wears away, it can cause any number of symptoms including:
- Localized pain
- Loss of muscle flexibility in the affected area of the spine
- Difficulty or pain when leaning (especially backward)
- Locally radiated pain that travels to nearby parts of the body (from the lumbar spine to the buttocks Trouble sitting for long periods of time
- Rarely, radiating symptoms that affect the extremities
It should also be noted that these symptoms don’t tend to be present all the time. You may still be experiencing facet disease if these symptoms occur at seemingly random intervals, with painful episodes alternating with periods without symptoms. The sporadic nature of the condition can make it tough to diagnose.
Facet Disease Treatments
Facet disease is typically first treated using conservative therapies. Many people with spinal facet disease find that a combination of different treatments provides them with relief from the symptoms. Usually, physicians will advise patients to take over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory or pain medications to help control pain. Those measures can include getting low-impact exercise, attending physical therapy sessions, receiving corticosteroid injections, or turning to complementary therapies like acupuncture. Patients also find that making lifestyle changes like losing excess weight or stopping the use of tobacco products as applicable can help reduce the severity of their symptoms.
Only in cases where symptoms haven’t improved or have worsened over weeks or months of treatment does surgery become a potential option. 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.