Facet joints separate the articular processes of adjacent vertebrates and function to guide movement and prevent spinal injuries. The disorders of the facet joints can result in a loss of these abilities. It is the anatomy of the facet joints that determines their action in the body.
Facet joint anatomy
As a synovial joint, the facet joint’s cavity is filled with synovial fluid that cushions the frictions between bones when they move. The anatomy of the facet joints suggests the sliding movements of the connected bones restricting the number of motions available.
Each pair of vertebrates connected through the joint is considered a functional spine unit. Anatomically, facet joints are designed to guide the type and amplitude of this unit’s movement. As stated previously, the anatomy of the facet joint limits the range of the movement possible to the gliding motions meaning that two vertebrates can only slide past each other.
Although the general properties of these joints are similar, the specific activity may vary slightly between different segments of the vertebral column. The reason for this is explained by the fact that individual parts of the spine have variable flexibility.
Facet joint arthritis
The normal functions of the joints can be disturbed by diseases, injuries, trauma etc. One of the common disorders of facet joints is facet joint arthritis, also called facet arthropathy. This syndrome is degenerative and is due to the anatomy and function of the facet joints. As the bones in a joint slide past each other, the degenerative process can develop over time. A complication of this condition involves enlargement of the joint during degeneration. It can result in a narrowing of the space between the vertebrates where the nerves enter and exit.
A dull ache across the back is the most prominent symptom of facet joint arthritis. However, it is not always the case for this facet joint disorder. The patient may experience pain in another part of the body besides where the original stimulus has occurred. It happens during the disorder since the facet joints are located deep in the back. Usually, facet joint arthritis is diagnosed based on the physical examination and the results of MRI or CT.
Depending on the complexity and overall patient health condition, this facet joint disorder can be treated by:
- physical therapy
- corticosteroid injections
- radiofrequency ablation