Facet Joint Syndrome
Facet joints, also called zygapophyseal joints are located at the back of the spine which connects the vertebrae together. There are two joints between each pair of vertebrae located on either side of the spine. The facet joints provide stability for the spine.
Facet joint syndrome, also known as facet joint disease is a form of arthritis that affects the facet joints of the spine. This condition is a normal part of the aging process. Facet joints are synovial joints, which mean they are surrounded and lubricated by a thick fluid called synovial fluid. Normally the facet joints are lined by a cartilage and a membrane of synovium.
Loss of cartilage and synovial fluid in these joints causes friction which can lead to bone to bone contact. This results in development of osteophytes or bone spurs on or around the facet joints. Bone spurs are the bony growth formed along the edges of the bones.
Typically there will be pain and swelling because of injury or arthritis. If the affected joint is in the neck the pain is usually felt over the neck radiating to the shoulder or around the neck. If it is in the back the pain is felt in the lower back that radiates to the buttocks and upper thigh area.
A diagnosis of facet joint syndrome is confirmed by injecting a small amount of a combination of x-ray contrast material, local anesthetic and cortisone into the joint. Relief of pain after the injection confirms the diagnosis of facet joint disease.
In most cases, symptoms associated with facet disease can be managed using conservative treatment methods like pain medication, use of braces, exercise, and corticosteroid injections. However, if chronic symptoms persist after conservative treatment, surgery might be an option. Rhizotomy may be performed which involves surgical cutting of the spinal nerve roots to eliminate pain.