Cranial Conditions

Facet Joint Arthritis

Facet Joint Arthritis

Facet Joint Arthritis is a painful condition in the spine that can be caused by stress on the facet joints.

What is Facet Joint Arthritis?

Facet joint arthritis, alternatively termed facet joint syndrome, facet joint disease, or facet joint osteoarthritis, is a condition characterized by the deterioration of the cartilage-lined joints within the spine known as facet joints. These joints play a crucial role in stabilizing the spine and facilitating smooth movement through their lubricated capsules and cartilage linings.

What Causes Facet Joint Arthritis?

Facet joint arthritis stems from stress and damage inflicted upon these joints. Such stress may originate from intervertebral disc degeneration, back or neck injuries, or the natural wear-and-tear process over time. Consequently, the cartilage covering the facet joints wears away, causing stiffness and swelling in the affected joints. This can lead to friction between vertebral bones, potentially resulting in the formation of bone spurs along the edges of the facet joints.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of facet joint arthritis vary depending on the location within the spine. For instance, if the cervical area is affected, individuals may experience neck, shoulder, and upper or middle back pain, often accompanied by headaches. On the other hand, lumbar area involvement may manifest as lower back pain, buttock discomfort, and pain radiating down the back of the thigh. Diagnosis typically involves identifying the source of pain through techniques like facet joint blocks.

How is Facet Joint Arthritis Treated?

Treatment approaches for facet joint arthritis range from conservative measures to surgical interventions, depending on the severity of the condition. Conservative methods include rest, application of ice or heat, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy exercises. Facet joint blocks may serve both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes in managing facet joint pain. In cases of severe or refractory symptoms, surgical options such as facet rhizotomy or bone fusion may be considered.

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