FAQ’s on Facet Syndrome

What is Facet Syndrome?

Facet Syndrome DenverFacet syndrome refers to a condition affecting the facet joints located in the spine. This condition is when these joints degenerate leading to consistent back pain and potentially the compression of one or more spinal nerves.

The facet joints are located at numerous levels along the lumbar spine on both sides of the spine. These joints are always in motion, enabling the spine to have flexibility and stability and bend and twist.

The surface of the facet joints have a cartilage lining which enables them to glide easily over one another. Over the years with age, this cartilage can slowly wear out and, in many cases, “bone spurs” grow along the joints. This can lead to friction between the surfaces of neighboring bones leading to swelling, tenderness, arthritis, and stiffness. This develops into the condition referred to as Facet Syndrome.

Who is at risk for developing Facet Syndrome?

Facet Syndrome mostly affects older patients as a result of natural aging and the associated wearing out or degeneration of body tissues. However, it can also be due to an injury or overuse of the joints in younger patients. The following are some of the most common predisposing factors to Facet Syndrome:

• Overuse resulting from heavy labor or too much sport activities.facets arthritic ct w text

• Lifting excessive weight.

• Complications from disease like spinal arthritis, gout or infection.

• Damages that result from sleeping with the neck twisted

• Experiencing trauma to the spine, or having a sudden jerk of the neck (whiplash) or twisting while having carried heavy weight overhead.

The patient exhibits symptoms that normally start with feeling an ache in the back, or around the neck, which may fade away with time but reappear again with overuse of the spine. With time the pain becomes more frequent until becoming consistently painful. This shows that the affected joint was initially only one facet joint, but with frequent overuse the deterioration has potentially progressed to other joints.

What treatment options are there for Facet Syndrome?

Treatment of this condition can be achieved through surgical and nonsurgical means. The method used will likely depend on both the exact symptoms present and the severity displayed. It is usually advisable to go for nonsurgical treatment of any conditions due to the inherent risk naturally associated with spinal surgical treatments.

Nonsurgical Treatments:

• Medications: There are several medications which help relieve facet syndrome physical therapy3symptoms. They include facet joint blocks, NSAIDs and opioids. They have been proven effective in fighting the symptoms and providing relief.

• Alternative Treatments:

Treatments which are not so conventional such as acupuncture, yoga, massage and Pilates have been known to remove the symptoms for some patients.

Physical Therapy: Doing exercises focused on strengthening  core muscles, having appropriate body mechanics, stretching out places of nerve compression, and  improving flexibility and mobility. Having strong core muscles helps in relieving stress on the degenerating facet joints by reducing the amount of stress placed on them during activity.

Cold/Hot Therapy: Having alternating hot and cold water baths immensely improves blood circulation to the joint tissues, facilitating faster healing and replacement of wearing tissues. Application of ice packs along your spine has also proved to reduce inflammation.

Resting: Resting gives the opportunity for your body to heal. Having a time out to rest your back and neck reduces the inflammation around the joint tissues as well as relieving the pressure and wear resulting from overuse.

Interventional Procedures with Denver Pain Management Doctors

There are three procedures that pain management doctors in Denver will perform to provide relief for symptomatic facet arthritis.

Medial Branch Blocks

Medial Branch Block

Medial Branch Block – this procedure may work well for two reasons. One being diagnostic to tell if the facet joint being injected around is the source a person’s pain. The injection doesn’t actually go into the joint, it numbs the nerve endings that supply sensation to the joint. If an individual achieves relief after the procedure, the joint is  then deemed to be the source of the pain.

The second reason a medial branch block is performed is for pain relief. The procedure itself may provide on average, three months of pain relief.

Facet Injection – similar to injections performed in arthritic joints in the body, facet injections may provide excellent pain relief for months on end. These injections are performed under fluoroscopic guidance and involve steroid and numbing medicine going into the joint capsule.rfa

Radiofrequency Ablation – if a medial branch block or facet injection works well for neck or back pain, and then wears off, the procedure can be repeated. Or if desired the patient may undergo a radiofrequency ablation. This procedure deadens the tiny nerve endings, the medial branches, for a lengthy period.

Pain relief may then be achieved for upwards of 12 to 18 months consistently. Also known as radiofrequency neurotomy, the RFA procedure has been one of the revolutionary recent advancements in pain management. If the pain returns in the back or neck, then the RFA may be repeated with the expectation of another great result.


Pain Clinics in DenverIf you or a loved one is suffering from low back pain, facet arthritis may be to blame. Pain clinics in Denver offer relief for the problem. Let Colorado Pain relieve your pain with pain management doctors Denver trusts.

Simply call  (702) 323-0553

for more information and scheduling today!