Condition. Facet syndrome

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Facet syndrome is a condition that occurs when the facet joints degenerate or wear away. The facet joints are the smooth, interlocking surfaces found on the surface of the vertebra or backbones. They help prevent the spine from moving too much and add stability to the structure of the spine.

Like many other joints in the body, the facet joints are lined with cartilage. The vertebrae can twist and bend because, also like some of the body’s other joints, the facet joints are enclosed in a lubricating capsule.

Facet syndrome causes

When the facet joints are stressed and damaged, facet joint syndrome develops. This can occur as a result of several different conditions, such as:

  • Normal wear and tear
  • A degenerated disc
  • An injury

When a facet joint is subjected to stress, the cartilage that lines it gradually erodes or wears away. This causes swelling and stiffness in the joint. When the bones of the spine rub directly against one another, rather than gliding on the smooth cartilage material, bone spurs or osteophytes start to develop on the edges of the joints.

Symptoms of facet syndrome

The bone spurs can press on spinal nerves and cause painful symptoms. The pain of facet syndrome varies, depending on which area of the spine has been affected. Facet syndrome symptoms include:

  • Cervical: The cervical spine is found in the upper area of the back and neck. If facet joints in the cervical spine are damaged, headaches may be a symptom, and pain may be experienced in the:
    • Neck area
    • Shoulders
    • Upper back
    • Middle back
  • Thoracic: The thoracic spine is located in the middle area between the cervical and lumbar spine. Facet joint syndrome in the thoracic spine causes pain in the midback. Also, your range of motion may be restricted to the point that you have to turn your entire body to look left or right.
  • Lumbar: The lumbar spine is located in the lower back. Facet syndrome in this area may produce pain in the:
    • Lower back area
    • Buttocks and hips
    • Backs of the thighs

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