Facet joints, also known as Zygapophysial joints, are the joint structures that connect the bones of the spine to one another. They provide stability to the spine by anchoring the vertebral column while also permitting the spine to twist, bend and arch. These joints are made up of cartilage, which is an elastic tissue that allows smooth movement of the vertebrae. These joints play a pivotal role in our activities of daily living.
When a joint degenerates or becomes swollen, that is when a patient is diagnosed with Facet Joint Syndrome. Facet joint syndrome can take place in any area of the spine, such as the cervical and thoracic spine, but this condition commonly manifests within the lumbar spine due to excessive stress applied in that area. That is why Facet Joint Syndrome is a common spinal condition that is experienced by many physically active and labor working individuals, which is similar to Subluxation. However, this condition may be inherited at any age due to traumatic injuries as well.
Facet Joint Syndrome is commonly associated with other significant spinal conditions such as Arthritis and Spondylolisthesis.
Causes of Facet Joint Syndrome
Below is a list of causes of Facet Joint Syndrome:
- Traumatic injuries that cause whiplash or fractures in the spine
- Poor posture and/or obesity that forces pressure against the spine
- Aging, which commonly leads to degeneration of the joints and discs
- Infection, Arthritis or Spondylolisthesis
- Excessive activities that overexert the spine (labor work or certain sports)
Similar to Subluxation, Symptoms exceptionally vary depending on the location of the disturbed joint. Facet joints that are affected near the cervical spine/neck area can generate headaches while facet joints affecting the lumbar spine may emanate other symptoms.
Regardless, individuals suffering from Facet Joint Syndrome commonly experience pain upon movement, especially when twisting, turning and bending. Patients will ultimate experience deterioration with regards to range of motion.
Symptoms for Facet Joint Syndrome consist of neck and back pain that radiates into different areas of the body along with stiffness, swelling, and sometimes weakness.
Like most spinal conditions, individuals with Facet Joint Syndrome will be treated via physical therapy, exercise, braces, minimally invasive options such as anti-inflammatory drugs, medications and steroid injections. Facet joint injections are the most common type of treatment administered for patients suffering from this condition as it helps relieve pain for a prolonged period of time or perhaps permanently.
Of course, if this condition is severe and treatment is ineffective in alleviating any pain and/or symptoms, then surgical intervention may be entertained.