Facet Joint Syndrome

The facet joints are the connections between the bones of the spine. These joints allow the spine to bend and twist, and they keep the back from slipping too far forward or twisting too much. 

Facet joint syndrome occurs when these joints get stressed and damaged due to injury, everyday wear and tear, or disc degeneration. 

Symptoms

Symptoms depend upon the area of the spine that is affected. 

If the cervical or upper spine is damaged, you may feel pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper and middle back. You may also experience headaches.

If the lumbar or lower spine is affected, you may feel pain in the lower back, buttocks and back of the thigh. 

Diagnosis

To diagnose the source of back pain, we will take a medical history and conduct a medical exam. Based on our findings, we may use the following diagnostic tools:

  • Imaging, such as X-rays, CT scans or an MRI 

If we need more information, we may need to do: 

  • Bone scan 
  • Bone density test 
  • Facet joint injection – for diagnosis and possible treatment
  • Medial branch nerve block – for diagnosis and possible treatment

Treatment

Facet joint syndrome is first treated with non-surgical procedures such as:

  • Rest, ice and/or heat
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Medial branch nerve blocks followed by radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for diagnosis and treatment

If non-surgical treatments do not relieve pain, a bone fusion may be recommended.

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