Facet Syndrome and Arthritis

Facet Syndrome, one of the most common causes of back pain, is a condition affecting the joint facets of the superior articular process of one vertebra and the inferior articular process of the vertebra above it. Each vertebra has two facet joints, one with the corresponding vertebra above it, and one with the corresponding vertebra below it.

In Facet Syndrome the cartilage on these joint surfaces has deteriorated to the point where friction between the joints causes swelling, tenderness and pain. Often nerve impingement also occurs. Facet syndrome can occur anywhere throughout the spine but occurs most often (approximately 55% of cases) in the cervical (neck) vertebrae, and 31% of cases occur in the lumbar (lower back) vertebrae.

Facet syndrome typically develops into spinal osteoarthritis (spondylosis). Facet syndrome is most often age-related but can occur due to injury.


Who is at Risk of Developing Facet Syndrome?

  • Being overweight increases your risk of developing facet Syndrome.
  • Excessive use due to sports or other active lifestyles.
  • Injuries from whiplash or even odd sleeping positions can injure your spine.
  • Sudden jerking motion of the neck, improper lifting, or any other trauma to the spine can increase the risk of developing Facet Syndrome.
  • Persons with a family history of facet syndrome are at higher risk.
  • Extended periods of heavy labor (construction work).
  • Disease: gout, arthritis, and infections increase the risk of developing Facet Syndrome.


What are the Symptoms?

  • Prolonged standing often increases pain levels.
  • Pain that is more severe in the mornings and evenings, or with changes in weather such as cold and rainy weather.
  • Neck pain radiating into the shoulders, arms, or head.
  • Sitting for long periods and driving/riding in automobiles for long periods often increase pain levels.
  • Headaches, usually occurring at the base of the skull, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and aching behind the eyes.
  • Scoliosis (abnormal curvature in the spine).
  • Weakness or numbness in your legs or arms, shooting pains, tingling sensations, dull achiness.
  • The feeling of your bones grinding together when you move, often it seems as if you can actually hear this.
  • Lower back pain that often radiates into the buttocks, pelvic region, and/or thighs.


How is Facet Syndrome Diagnosed?

Your medical history  and family history can play a role, injuries, or even age can lead to the development of facet Syndrome. Your Chicago pain doctor will discuss your symptoms with you and if facet syndrome is suspected you may undergo x-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), or a CT (computed tomography) scan may be used to get a clear picture of what is occurring (Effect of facet joint injection versus systemic steroids in low back pain: a randomized controlled trial 2014).


How do you Treat Facet Syndrome?

Treatment for Facet Syndrome depends on the severity of the condition. Less serious cases or cases in the beginning stages may be treated with physical therapy, NSAIDS, heat/cold compresses, light stretching exercise such as yoga, non-opioid analgesics, acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care.

If these methods do not provide relief from pain you may need stronger, opioid medications. Facet joint injections are another method for more serious cases. If the injections fail to provide relief a more invasive method such as nerve ablation or surgery may be necessary (Radiofrequency treatment has a beneficial role in reducing low back pain due to facet syndrome in octogenarians or older 2014)


The Chicago pain management doctors at Premier Pain & Spine have extensive experience for the treatment of back and neck pain due to facet syndrome and arthritis. This includes both medical and interventional Chicago pain management.

Facet Syndrome Treatment in Chicago

Take the first step towards a pain-free life by scheduling your appointment with Premier Pain & Spine today!