Your facet joints are the connections between the vertebrae (bones) in your spine. Nerve roots pass through these joints in order to go to other parts of the body. The facet joints contribute to your ability to bend and twist your spine. The joints are lined with synovium and have lubricating fluid. Aging, pressure overload, injury, and arthritis can all contribute to the facet joints becoming swollen, which results in pain.
The symptoms experienced due to facet syndrome depend on the location of the affected joints. If the affected joint is in the neck, headaches can result. If the facet joint is in the back, the result can be lower back pain, thigh and buttocks pain, and pain in the arms, shoulders, and hands. Facet syndrome can also cause stiffness, weakness, and numbness, and make it difficult to go from sitting to standing. If the facet joint is really swollen, it can lead to a pinched nerve.
Facet syndrome is typically diagnosed by the doctor injecting an anti-inflammatory into the joint, along with an anesthetic. If there is relief right away, the doctor knows that the facet joint was responsible for the pain and facet syndrome is the cause. Imaging tests like x-rays and CT scans may be performed to get a better look at the spine, and a bone scan can help your doctor see if facet joints are inflamed.
For long term relief, steroids can be injected into facet joints. This relief lasts several weeks to several months. Back braces and anti-inflammatory drugs may also be utilized. Your doctor might suggest ice therapy to reduce swelling and electrostimulation for muscle spasms. Physical therapy can help to reduce pain and improve strength. In severe cases, if there is no relief through other methods, surgery may be performed in order to cut the spinal nerve roots.