Back pain is one of the most common reasons people see their doctor. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain can occur for numerous reasons, and it’s crucial to determine the cause of your discomfort so you can seek treatment. One possible cause of back pain is facet joint syndrome.
What is Facet Joint Syndrome?
Facet joint syndrome is a condition that occurs when the facet joints, the joints that connect the vertebrae in your spine, become damaged or inflamed. This condition can lead to pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion in the affected area. It is a common cause of back pain, particularly lower back pain, accounting for 15 to 45% of cases.
What are the Symptoms of Facet Joint Syndrome?
The most common symptom of facet joint syndrome is pain. This pain is often described as a dull ache that worsens with activity. It may also be worse at certain times of the day, such as first thing in the morning or at night before bed.
In addition to pain, other symptoms may include:
- Limited mobility
- Radiating numbness down your arms or your legs
- Pins and needle sensation
- Muscle spasms
What Causes Facet Joint Syndrome?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of facet joint syndrome, including:
The most common cause of facet joint disease is spondylosis, a condition that results from the normal aging process. Oftentimes, this condition leads to the development of bone spurs, which are small, bony growths that form when the vertebrae rub against each other.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that causes the cartilage around the joints to break down. As the cartilage deteriorates, it places more pressure on the facet joints, which can lead to increased friction and more wear and tear on the spinal structures.
A sudden force or trauma to the spine, such as a car accident or fall, can damage the facet joints and lead to facet joint syndrome.
How is Facet Joint Syndrome Diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing symptoms of facet joint syndrome, your spine specialist, Hooman Melamed, M.D., will likely start by asking about your medical history and conducting a physical examination. He may also order imaging tests, such as an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI, to get a better look at your spine and see if there is any damage to the facet joints.
Once Dr. Melamed has diagnosed your condition, he will work with you to develop a customized treatment plan.
What Are My Treatment Options?
There are multiple different treatment options for this condition, including:
Pain Management Techniques
There are several techniques that Dr. Melamed may recommend to help you manage your back, such as:
- Pain medications: over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Acupuncture: an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves the insertion of small needles into various pressure points around the body.
- TENS electrical stimulation units: a noninvasive nerve stimulation technique where electrical currents are delivered to activate underlying nerves.
Dr. Melamed may suggest injections of steroid medication into the facet joints to help reduce inflammation and pain. In addition, you may receive an epidural injection, which uses corticosteroids and a local anesthetic to improve back pain from facet joint syndrome.
In some cases, minimally invasive microdecompression surgery may be necessary to repair damaged facet joints. Dr. Melamed will only consider surgery if other treatment options have been unsuccessful in relieving symptoms.
Begin to Treat Your Back Pain at The Spine Pro
If you’re experiencing back pain, it’s essential to visit a spine specialist to diagnose and treat the source of your pain. Dr. Melamed is a board-certified orthopedic spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive procedures. If you are diagnosed with any spinal condition, Dr. Melamed can work with you to develop a treatment plan that best treats your back pain. Call 424-21-SPINE to make an appointment today.