Your facet joints are small and located in between each vertebra along your spine. They attach the vertebrae together and are what allows your spine to turn and flex. The joints also provide your spine with stability.
Over time, the opposing surfaces of cartilage in between the facet joints gradually wear away. This causes friction in between the bones, which can lead to chronic pain in any area of the spine.
What are the symptoms?
The pain that you feel can vary according to where the affected facet joints are located along your spine. Your cervical facet joints, which start at the basic of your skull, can cause pain along the back or side of your neck or in your head, neck, shoulder, or arm. Your thoracic facet joints, located in the middle of your back, can cause you to feel pain in your upper back and chest. Facet joints in your lumbar spine, or lower back, can cause pain directly in the lower back area and in the hips, buttocks, and legs. You might notice that the pain associated with facet syndrome becomes more persistent as the disease progresses.
What are the causes of facet syndrome?
Facet syndrome is usually caused by general wear and tear and arthritis, especially in older patients. Younger individuals can experience facet syndrome due to injury or overuse. Extra weight can also contribute to the syndrome, since it increases the load your facet joints have to bear.
How is it treated?
Facet joint injections can provide you with immediate pain relief that lasts for an extended period. The injection uses an anti-inflammatory medication that blocks the pain in the joints. You might also find relief from a nerve block or radiofrequency ablation, which numbs nerves in the area of the spine that is affected and prevents pain signals from being sent to the brain.