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Posted on 06-20-2012

Understanding Facet Syndrome

Many patients who complain about back pain turn out to be suffering from facet syndrome, but most are not aware or have never heard of the condition. What is facet syndrome?  Simply put, facet syndrome develops when facet joints become worn, torn or irritated, causing muscle spasms and back pain.  Since facet joints are present in each vertebra, facet syndrome can occur anywhere along the spine and manifest in the form of neck pain, upper back pain, mid-back pain, or low-back pain.

When healthy, facet joints prevent each vertebra from slipping or collapsing over neighboring vertebrae and are encapsulated in a nourishing lubricating fluid.  They provide each spinal disc with stability, flexibility, and the ability to twist the spine and bear weight.  Since facet joints are dynamic structures that are in constant motion, they can easily suffer trauma or injury.  Facet joints are populated by nerve fibers, which will react to damage and irritation by inducing muscular spasms (which can be severe) and back pain.  Patients who suffer from degenerative disc disease (presenting discs with decreased height due to herniation) are at a higher risk for facet syndrome.

Untreated facet syndrome can develop into osteoarthritis over time; this occurs when damaged joints become deprived of their necessary lubricating fluid, causing the cartilage to weaken and sometimes disappear.  Damaged or non-existent cartilage develops bony growths know as bone spurs.  Abnormal enlargement of the facet joints can also occur, placing excessive pressure on the nerves and causing irritation, which manifests in the form of pain.  Bone spurs and enlarged facet joints restrict the spine’s normal range of motion and cause pain, especially when the patient moves, which can severely diminish the patient’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

The easiest way to prevent facet syndrome and its unpleasant effects on the body is to engage in regular physical activity, which keeps the facet joints, as well as the spine, flexible and in optimal health.  In addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle, regular exercise is the key to avoiding injury and keeping joints in top health.

If back pain is a concern, a chiropractor should be consulted immediately to determine if it is caused by facet syndrome. The source of pain can be easily found, since pain is usually concentrated around the affected facet joints.  If detected in its early stages, facet syndrome is easily treatable and reversible through non-surgical treatments, including manual adjustments, spinal decompression, and physical therapy.  Patients in the NYC area suffering from facet syndrome and any type of back  pain are welcome to visit our website for information on our various cutting-edge non-surgical treatments, which are highly effective and provide immediate, long-lasting results.

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