The back of your spine has facet joints that offset the discs in your vertebrae. Facet joints are essential because they keep the vertebrae in place and enable an optimal range of flexibility.
What Causes Facet Arthropathy?
Like the other joints in your body, facet joints are also susceptible to aging and arthritis. Facet arthropathy is caused by degeneration of the facet joints either organically with age or by injuring the facet joints in an accident (often during car crashes and falls) or other stresses to the back.
Can I Prevent Facet Arthropathy?
Most of the time, arthritis and joint degradation are outside of your control, but there are some things you can do that could reduce your risk of developing spine arthritis or suffering other damage. Regular physical activity, a healthy diet, good posture and decreasing back stress/strain often go a long way toward strengthening your spine and preventing facet arthropathy.
What Are the Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy?
Facet arthropathy is very painful and can significantly impact your quality of life. You might benefit from talking with your doctor if any of the following daily activities result in increased or worsened back pain:
- Sleep or rest
- Twisting or bending backward
Facet arthropathy may also cause you to experience some of the following symptoms:
- Pain centralized to a particular region of the spine
- Soreness of either side of your lower back
- Spinal stenosis, bone spurs or similar ailments
What Are the Treatment Options for Facet Arthropathy?
Fortunately, you might not need to suffer from facet arthropathy. If you or a loved one suffers from spinal arthritis, there are some treatments that may help alleviate the pain.
Some doctors give patients medications like painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs for facet arthropathy. These medications are helpful for symptom and pain management, but not so much for treating the root problem. In many cases, patients become dependent on the painkillers. Anesthetics also tend to lose their effectiveness as patients develop a tolerance to them over time. Medications are not usually the optimal long-term solution.
Physical therapists can use stretches to reduce pain and increase the range of motion in patients suffering from facet arthropathy, which can help them perform everyday tasks. Physical therapy is great because it treats the patient’s body and strengthens the back muscles rather than only treating the symptoms.
Facet Joint Injections
Cervical, thoracic or lumbar facet joint injections involves injecting a small amount of a local anesthetic (numbing agent) and steroid medications into a patient’s facet joints. The injections numb the pain, which allows the patient to tolerate physical therapy and adopt a rehabilitation routine that helps them recover from their back condition.
Other than pain relief, facet joint injections may also be beneficial as a diagnostic tool to help pinpoint the origin and cause of a patient’s back pain. If a patient experiences pain relief after an injection, it suggests the numbed facet joint is the cause of pain.
What Are the Risks of a Facet Joint Injection?
As with nearly all medical procedure, there are some risks with facet joint injections. Patients on blood thinners and those with bleeding disorders may experience some bleeding at the injection site. Shots may induce painful muscle spasms, but this usually only lasts for a couple of hours or at most a couple of days. Infection is another risk, but it occurs in less than 2 percent of facet joint injections.
Should I Try a Facet Joint Injection?
Facet arthropathy does not generally improve with time, so doctors recommend patients take action to heal instead of suffering through the pain. A facet joint injection might be the perfect fit for you if your symptoms match those of facet arthropathy.
If you suffer from facet arthropathy or want to learn more about the long-term back pain management solutions available to Georgians, consider calling AllSpine Laser and Surgery Center in Atlanta.
You can learn more about facet joint injections and schedule an appointment by calling (770) 997-0600.