FAQ’s on Facet Syndrome

What is Facet Syndrome?

Facet syndrome is a collection of symptoms related to the facet joints of the body. These are small bones on the spine, about the size of a thumbnail, that serve to link the vertebrae together.

They are crucial in providing mobility to the spine, and in housing the spinal nerve roots protruding from the main spinal cord. The nerve roots enclosed by the facet joints lead from the spine into the arms, legs, and abdomen. Damage to the facet joints can lead to the compression of these nerves and a loss of function in the spine.

What causes Facet Syndrome?

The presence of facet syndrome within a person is indicative of a singular cause. This condition is normally present in cases where patients have chronic arthritic inflammation which can weaken the bones, making them more susceptible to injury. This inflammation (and subsequent direct injury), are the two most common contributors to the presence of facet syndrome. Since age-related arthritic inflammation is common in older patients, they are much more likely to develop this condition.

The symptoms of Facet Syndrome

The symptoms the patient will possess can vary based on where the damaged facets are located on the spine. Damaged cervical facets will result in the patient losing function in the neck, causing Pain and stiffness of the neck. Depending on where in the neck the damaged facets are, there may be a feeling of weakness or numbness felt in the arms as well.

Damaged lumbar facet joints result in pain felt throughout the lower back, sometimes the buttocks, and may result in numbness or weakness felt within the legs.

How is Facet Syndrome diagnosed?

Diagnosing a patient with facet syndrome is based on the Dallas pain management doctor’s ability to accurately test the symptoms present. The diagnosis of this syndrome is the culmination of a number of tests compared to the acceptable industry standard of what symptoms constitute facet syndrome.

The first round of testing will be to test what other conditions may be present that could be producing similar symptoms, as it is unusual for facet syndrome to occur at just one level. Some common conditions that occur alongside facet syndrome include other causes of arthritic inflammation. These include spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and other cases of spinal arthritis within the patient.

Once these tests have been performed, a series of imaging tests will be used to examine the spine itself. This is done with two main purposes: To locate and evaluate the damaged facet joints and to examine for the presence of other conditions that could be linked to these damaged joints. This includes the compression of one or more spinal nerves, spots of arthritic inflammation, and to examine for the formation of bone spurs on the spine.

The final testing performed is the used of diagnostic nerve blocks. These are done for patients experiencing chronic pain related to either a compressed or damaged nerve.

A diagnostic block, called a medial branch block, injects a small amount of numbing agent around the nerves to inhibit their ability of sending pain signals to the brain.

If the arthritic joint was the root cause of pain, the patient will feel immediate relief. This will confirm that the damaged joint is in fact the source of pain.

Treatment options for Facet Syndrome

Here is a list of the treatment options:

  • Medications – NSAIDs, Tylenol, Short Term opiates,
  • Acupuncture
  • TENS Units
  • Spinal Decompression Therapy
  • Physical Therapy and Chiropractic
  • Medial Branch Blocks – provide 3 months on average of pain relief.
  • Epidural Steroid Injections – if the facet syndrome has pinched nerves.
  • Facet Injections – Numbing medicine, Steroid, PRP, Stem Cells
  • Radiofrequency Ablation – provides 12 to 18 months of consistent pain relief in studies.

Most patients with facet syndrome are able to obtain significant relief with the above options. Surgery is typically avoided.

Call the top pain management clinics in Dallas today for the best facet syndrome care!