Neck Pain / Back Pain
Cervical Facet Syndrome
WHAT IS IT?
Is the structural deterioration of one or more of the vertebral facet joints in the cervical, thoracic and/or lumbar segment of the spine. The facet joints become inflamed, causing pain, soreness or stiffness.
Each level of our spine functions as a “three-joint compress” where the joints connecting each of our vertebrae are known as facet joints. This allows for great stability, and support of motion between individual vertebral bodies. The intervertebral disk and facet joint form a tripod so damage or degeneration to one affects the other. As we age, the natural wear and tear can cause damage to the facet joint leading to painful neck or back pain. Individuals with abnormal postures or may have experienced trauma, such as whiplash or injury to the neck can result in facet syndrome.
The facet joints that occupy our lower (lumbar spine) back are more susceptible to facet joint syndrome due to the fact that we bear most of our body weight in that region. Our lumbar spine carries the most amount of strain.
Individuals who identify with facet syndrome often report increased pain with prolonged periods of inactivity such as sitting or standing too long in one position. Most report that the pain subsides when changing positions only to come back moments later. You may also experience prominent pain in the morning before the body undergoes movement or physical activity and will subside as the day continues. However, individuals who sit down the majority of the day with poor posture may experience pain and discomfort throughout the day.
If you identify with any of the following symptoms, please contact us for evaluation:
- Tingling, weakness or pain in arm(s) and hand(s)
- Headaches typically located in the back of your head
- Neck and back pain/discomfort
- Upper back (Cervical Spine) pain that may lead into the shoulder(s)
- Pain that radiates through the shoulder blade
- Swelling, discoloration and/or tenderness at the site of the inflamed joint
- Decreased range of motion/flexibility of the neck
*Some individuals identify with one but it is likely to experience a few symptoms
Since facet syndrome can occur in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar segments of the spine, symptoms of pain can be felt at the base of the skull, neck, upper/mid back, shoulders and sometimes even headaches.
Cervical Facet Joint Syndrome: This is typically diagnosed when symptoms are experienced in your neck and shoulders. Your pain can restrict range of motion in your neck, making it uncomfortable to rotate your head. Cervical Facet Syndrome may also cause the headaches you might be experiencing.
Thoracic Facet Joint Syndrome: this is typically diagnosed when pain radiates in your mid-back. This can restrict your range of motion, causing you to have to turn your entire body in order to look over to the right or left.
Lumbar Facet Joint Syndrome: This is usually diagnosed when your pain radiates in the lower back. The pain can also spread to be felt in the buttocks, hips, groin, and back of the thighs depending on your exact location of injury. Inflammation of these joints can cause stiffness and difficulty getting out of a chair. The condition may prevent you from standing erect.
Tingling or weakness can also be experienced in the hand or arm making your everyday tasks difficult. Some individuals also describe discomfort in the upper back/ neck while driving in their cars on the way to work or when sitting at their desks for periods of time throughout the day.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
Whether your pain is acute or chronic, it is important to seek medical attention in order to prevent declining health issues that may have a direct effect on your everyday way of living. Because treatment with spinal injections differ among individual patients, our physicians begin with a physical exam, and collection of your medical history. Our medical professionals rely on patient history and are interested in lifestyle habits and routines. This is done so that our team coordinates a treatment plan fit for you.
In most cases, your physician will administer a steroid injection to the injured facet joint. To begin, your physician will numb the skin and tissue around the areas to be injected. A thin needle is then guided through the numb tissue using a video x-ray device called a “fluoroscope” which helps find your medial branch nerves. Contrast dye is injected to make sure the needle is located near the place of injury before administering the medication. In some cases, more than one level of the spine may need to be injected.
When the procedure is finished, you’ll be watched for a brief time before being discharged. Most patients find immediate relief. Your physician might ask you to keep track of your pain level as the medication wears off over time. If the block was successful, your doctor can recommend a procedure for long-lasting relief.
Treating Facet Joint Syndrome is imperative due to the health risks that may arise