The facet joints between the vertebrae in your spine make your back flexible and allow you to bend and twist. Facet syndrome, also known as osteoarthritis, is a common cause of neck and back pain in which the facet joints become swollen and painful.

Facet syndrome is most commonly caused by aging, but it can also be the result of trauma due to injury or too much pressure placed on the facet joints.

Patients with facet syndrome will typically have difficulty twisting and bending their spine. If it’s in your neck, you may have to turn your entire body to look left or right. When it’s in the lower back, it may be difficult for you to straighten your back or get up out of a chair.

Pain, numbness, and muscle weakness are commonly associated with facet syndrome. If the nerves affected are in your cervical spine, you may have symptoms in your neck, shoulders, arms and hands. If the nerves are in your lumbar spine you may have symptoms in your buttocks, legs, and feet.

Symptoms may feel worse in the morning and improve after moving around as the day progresses. However, if you work all day from a seated position with poor posture, you may experience pain at any time throughout the day.

facet syndrome

Diagnosis can be made by injecting the joints with a small amount of X-ray contrast material, local anesthetic, and cortisone. Relief of the pain during the time of action of this combination of drugs is diagnostic.

facet syndrome

Once a diagnosis has been confirmed, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to treat your symptoms. A well-rounded rehabilitation program assists in reducing pain and inflammation, improving your mobility and strength, and helping you do daily activities with greater ease and ability. Physical therapy may also include the use of ice to decrease blood flow to the affected area and reduce swelling. Ultrasound and electrostimulation may be used to treat muscle spasms, as well as massage and stretching.

Treatments are usually combined with a course of anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling. Muscle relaxers may be used to decrease local muscle spasms. At times, an injection into your facet joint using cortisone can be helpful for calming pain and inflammation. The injection usually gives temporary relief for several weeks or months.

If all conservative methods of treatment fail, surgery may be recommended. Surgery for facet syndrome typically consists of a fusion of the joint.

For patients that want to explore an alternative solution, adult stem cell therapy may be an option.