What Causes Facet Joint Syndrome?

Millions of Americans today suffer from chronic pain in some way. One of the most common types of chronic pain is neck and low back pain resulting from facet joint syndrome (FJS). As you head to a pain management clinic, make finding the root cause of your pain your goal. By taking this step, you’ll be able to find the best treatment option and enjoy a more pain-free life.

At St Louis Pain Consultants, we provide tailor-made treatments that best address the needs of each patient. Our team takes the time to understand what you’re going through to create a plan that best works for you.

Today, we’ll discuss the causes of facet joint syndrome and how you can address this condition.

Most Common Causes of Facet Joint Syndrome

To begin discussing the causes of this condition, we must first talk about where it commonly occurs. There are bones in your spine, called vertebrae, that are connected on both sides by facet joints.

These joints, along with the spongy discs between each vertebra, allow your neck and back to move with firmness. Facet joints also keep your back from slipping too far forward or twisting nonstop. 

As with any joint, your facet joints can become inflamed and irritated as time passes by. Here are some of the common causes that lead to facet joint syndrome:

Degenerative Disc Diseases

One of the main factors that lead to FJS is degenerative disc disease. Conditions like these occur when these events occur around your facet joint:

  • Discs start to degrade
  • Spaces in between vertebrae become smaller
  • Pressure builds upon the facet joints

Occurrences like these can wear away at the cartilage over time. If left untreated, bone spurs can form, which press on the spinal canal. Not only that, but they can cause spinal canals to narrow. Events like these can lead to spinal stenosis, and eventually, facet joint syndrome.

Here are some common symptoms to watch out for:

  • Pain that comes and goes and lasts for weeks or months at a time
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms or legs
  • Pain that radiates down your arms or legs

If you are going through these conditions, make sure to seek help from a pain management clinic right away. Taking this step helps you address your situation before it progresses.

Injuries And Overuse

You could also develop facet joint syndrome from injuries or overuse of your joints. Two common injuries can lead to this condition: acute facet injuries and repetitive facet injuries.

Acute facet injuries usually come from direct trauma, such as car accidents, falls, or sports injuries. Repetitive facet injuries derive from work-related tasks that require constant bending, lifting, or twisting. Gymnastics moves like backward bending and twisting can also lead to these injuries.

As you use these joints each day, the lining in your facet joints can wear out. When this happens, the rubbing between the joints can irritate and lead to osteoarthritis.

Below are some symptoms of this condition to keep an eye on:

  • Loss of flexibility
  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tender feeling in the joints

If any of these symptoms describe your situation, consult with a doctor as soon as possible.

Facet Joint Cysts

Conditions like arthritis can cause fluid-filled sacs or cysts to form within the facet joint’s synovial membrane. These cause pressure to add up within the joint. They can also press against other close structures, such as spinal nerve roots or the spinal cord.

These types of conditions can lead to intense pain and dysfunction. Here is a list of symptoms to watch for that can indicate the formation of facet joint cysts:

  • Cramping of the legs
  • Higher levels of pain while standing that then eases as you sit
  • Pain in the lower back or legs
  • Numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • Radiating pain that goes down the leg and to your feet

If you have one or more of these symptoms, consult with a pain management clinic right away.

How Doctors Can Diagnose This Condition

As for diagnosing facet joint syndrome, your doctor will likely order imaging tests to check for any abnormal spine conditions. X-rays and CT scans can track down changes in your facet joints. They may also use MRIs to rule out conditions like herniated discs that produce similar symptoms.

Your doctor may also use facet joint steroid injections or facet joint nerve blocks to help with the diagnosis. With the use of a fluoroscope, your doctor can insert a needle right into the joint. If you feel relief after the injection, it can indicate that a facet joint is the source of your pain.

Consult With a Pain Management Clinic for Pain Relief

As for treatment options, it all depends on what works best for each patient. For some, it could mean physical therapy and medication to relieve the pressure off the facet joints. For others, it could mean radiofrequency ablation to help address the nerve that is causing the pain. In cases of constant pain, it could mean surgery.

If you believe you have FJS, then it’s advised to schedule a consultation at our pain management clinic today. At St Louis Pain Consultants, we’ll develop a tailor-made plan that works for you and helps you live more pain-free.

If you are living with chronic pain, seek help from St. Louis Pain Consultants.

We want to help remind you what life without pain feels like.

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