Facet arthropathy, also known as facet joint osteoarthritis, is a degenerative disease that affects the facet joints in the spine and the cartilage on those joints.
A patient suffering from facet arthropathy may experience the following symptoms:
– Chronic pain, especially in the morning
– Muscle weakness
– Pain the radiates along a nerve
– Numbness or tingling
– Soreness or stiffness in joints
– Chronic headaches
As we age, the cartilage that coats the facet joints in our spine naturally begins to deteriorate from wear and tear over the years. Eventually, this can cause the vertebrae to rub together and lead to facet arthropathy.
Although it is most common to occur in the lower back and the neck where flexibility and weight burden are most present, it can technically develop in any part of the spine. The most common cause of facet arthropathy is the natural aging process, but other factors that can potentially accelerate this condition may include traumatic injury, obesity, poor posture and frequent bending, twisting, and lifting.
In order to successfully diagnose facet arthropathy, your doctor may order a CAT scan or MRI. In addition, he/she may inject the facet with a mixture of local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication in an attempt to relieve the pain.
There are a number of conservative options to treat the symptoms of facet arthropathy. Treatment options vary from patient to patient depending on the patient’s age and overall health, as well as the cause of the facet and extent of the condition. Some conservative options may include:
- NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen
- physical therapy
- stretching techniques
- heat therapy
- epidural injections
In such cases that conservative treatment fails to relieve the symptoms, spinal surgery may be recommended.