Many people suffer from lower back issues, but there are a number of problems which can affect the whole back. One such problem, facet joint syndrome, can impact the mid back along with the entirety of the spine. Also known as facet arthropathy, the syndrome was first discovered in 1933. It causes pain and stiffness in the joints of the spine and can affect any area of the back. Today, we are going to explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of this syndrome.

The Basics of Facet Joint Syndrome

This condition is a type of spinal osteoarthritis, one which affects the spine. Facet Joint Syndrome occurs when the facet joints of the back lose their cartilage due to deterioration. The result is stiffness and facet joint pain. In severe cases the bones may rub together, but even in less severe instances, pain and swelling are almost inevitable.

While pain and stiffness are certainly the most predominant symptoms of FJS, there are others, including:

  • Shoulder discomfort
  • Headache
  • Cramping
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness in the extremities

Because this condition can affect the whole of the back, and because the spine is so densely packed with nerves, sufferers of facet joint syndrome can experience various nerve-related issues in a variety of areas.

Causes of FJS

As with most joint related issues, aging is a large contributor to the development of this syndrome. Over time, cartilage deteriorates due to simple everyday movement and impact. That said, this syndrome does have a few causes unrelated to age.

One of the primary causes of FJS is lack of physical activity. Those who lead a largely sedentary lifestyle are likely to develop imbalances and weaknesses of the muscles of the back. Weakness in these muscles can cause posture to suffer, and this in turn causes unnecessary pressure to be placed on the cartilage, leading to quickened deterioration.

Another contributor to the development of facet joint syndrome is obesity. When an individual carries large amounts of extra weight, the pressure placed on the cartilage of the spine increases. This increase in pressure causes the cartilage to deteriorate in much the same way as poor posture.

A less common cause in the development of this type of osteoarthritis, traumatic injury can also cause or worsen this syndrome. If an impact affects the joints of the spine, it can damage the cartilage and speed degeneration.

Treatment and Prevention

There are a number of things you can do to help manage back pain, but pain relief can be complicated with FJS. Physical therapy is a good place to start. Strengthening the muscles around the spine can help to correct posture and take the pressure off the cartilage involved. Physical therapy can also help stretch tight muscles which contribute to pressure being shifted to the spine. In obese or overweight patients, weight loss may help relieve pain in a similar way.

Heat and cold treatments are often beneficial in pain relief as they can help in relaxing the affected area. Rest should be involved when attempting to reduce pain as well. Medication can also be useful in reducing pain, though it should be used only under the supervision of a medical professional.

In severe cases, surgery may be the only option, though other treatments should be considered first. Surgery is a last resort, and your doctor should consider your case carefully before moving forward with such measures. Individual cases of FJS vary, and your medical provider should take the time to work with you and your unique symptoms in order to provide optimal care.

If you are suffering from symptoms of FJS, reach out and schedule an appointment. We here at OSA can help you get the treatment you need to eliminate pain and get back to your life.

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