The facet joints are the areas in the spine that connect the vertebrae (bony segments that make up the spine). The vertebrae allow your back to flex, twist, and maintain a wide range of motion. Each vertebra in your spine contains two facet joints. When you run your finger down your back and feel the bony bumps, those are the facet joints. These structures enable bending, twisting and flexing motions for your individual vertebra. Connective tissue covers every facet joint, covering them with a synovial fluid and cartilage, both of which allow the joints to move along each other without causing you discomfort. When your joints are inflamed, you may start feeling a pain or stiffness that makes it more difficult for you to move. The most common cause of facet joint pain comes from the disintegration of the previously mentioned cartilage, a condition more commonly known as osteoarthritis. Once the cartilage grinds down enough, the act of joints rubbing together can cause pain.
While osteoarthritis (also known as degenerative joint disease) is the most common type of arthritis, it is not the only form of facet joint syndrome that can manifest. This disorder most often affects the cervical spine (neck) and lumbar spine (lower back). People over the age of 60 tend to be the most common arthritis patients, as the degeneration of cartilage naturally comes with aging, but added pressure to facet joints or unexpected injuries may also be a cause. Narrowing spines from shrinking intervertebral discs (which act as cushions between the vertebra) can also narrow the spine and misalign the facet joints, applying too much pressure.
- Pain localized to one side of the body.
- Pain in the neck, shoulders and upper back, or in the lower back or hips.
- Difficulty walking or walking hunched over.
- Steroid injections
- Laser spine surgery
Many people who experience a form of facet joint syndrome have trouble bending their back, so much that an action as simple as turning the body to look in one direction, or getting up out of a chair, may be too painful. If you are experiencing these symptoms and looking for treatment in the New Jersey area, a spine specialists can help guide you toward the treatment you need. Even if the treatment requires surgery, the Spine Institute applies minimally invasive methods so our patients have a significantly higher chance of walking out of the hospital the same day they walked in for the procedure. Contact one of our New Jersey offices today to learn more and set an appointment.