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Home Conditions Back & Spine Arthritis / Facet Disease

Arthritis / Facet Disease

Both arthritis and diseases of the facet joints can cause significant pain and impair mobility in the hips and spine. At Clearway, our dedicated staff provides comprehensive treatment to combat pain and return you to your active lifestyle.

What is Arthritis and Facet Joint Syndrome?

Arthritis is a disease affecting the joints, cartilage, bones, muscles, and connective fibers in your body. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, but the 2 most common affecting adults are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. 90% of adults in the US experience some form of arthritis. With its many joints and central role in supporting the body, the spine is a common area for osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that mostly affects older individuals. While the exact cause isn’t known, it is associated with wear and tear on the joints from aging or acute injury. Osteoarthritis is most common in joints that are used often, such as the hands, hips, back and legs.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can strike at any age causing pain, swelling, and reduced mobility in any joint in the body. While commonly felt in the hands and fingers, it can also occur in the joints in the spinal column and in the hips.

Facet disease or facet joint syndrome is most commonly arthritis that affects the facet joints. The joints in our spine join bones together to allow movement and limit rotation in the spine to ensure the vertebrae don’t slip out of position. This provides stability in your spine as you move. For every vertebrae in your spine, there are two facet joint sets, one facing up and down and the other facing left to right. These joints are surrounded by connective tissue producing fluid. The fluid lubricates and nourishes the joint. Cartilage coating the joints helps it to move and glide more smoothly together. Facet joints allow you to bend, stretch, and twist. These joints are also the ones in the spine that are most likely to develop osteoarthritis. Someone who is diagnosed with arthritis in the spine is most likely experiencing cartilage breakdown in those joints causing mild to severe pain.

Causes of Arthritis and Facet Joint Syndrome

The 2 most common types of arthritis have similar symptoms from different causes. The causes of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) aren’t very well understood. It is more common in women than in men. Those who suffer from another autoimmune disorder are more likely to develop RA than the general population.

Osteoarthritis develops due to wear on the joints. Over time, repetitive movements or acute injuries will lead to damage to the joint tissue, which leads to pain and stiffness. Obesity, work that requires repetitive motions or heavy lifting, overuse of a joint, and a genetic predisposition can make it more likely that someone will develop osteoarthritis. It is more common in women than men. The disease seems to have a hereditary factor.

There are numerous risk factors that could cause facet joint syndrome including: normal wear and tear from the aging process, trauma like whiplash from a car accident, genetics, and jobs that require repeated bending over, twisting, or lifting.

Arthritis and Facet Joint Syndrome Symptoms

Arthritis is often characterized by these symptoms:

  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Clicking or crunching noises from inside the joint
  • Swelling

Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may also experience these additional symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Warmth from the joints
  • Skin that is tender to the touch

Some patients who have rheumatoid arthritis may experience periodic “flare ups” of symptoms. Others may experience some degree of arthritis symptoms on a consistent basis.

Facet joint syndrome is when the joints begin to deteriorate. As the cartilage that covers the facet joints deteriorates, there will not be enough cartilage to aid in smooth movement. This causes bone on bone rubbing together as well as a possibility of bone spurs developing.

As facet joint syndrome progresses, you will suffer from back stiffness and can lose flexibility in your back. It will also lead to pain in your back and neck. If pain is located in the cervical or upper spine, you may experience neck, shoulder, upper back, and middle back pain, along with headaches. If pain is located in the lumbar spine or lower back, you may experience lower back, thigh, and buttocks pain. It can also cause blocked or pinched nerves, with pain radiating to many other parts of the body.

How Arthritis and Facet Joint Syndrome Are Diagnosed

To determine whether you are suffering from arthritis or facet joint syndrome, your doctor will start with a physical exam and a discussion of your medical history. Diagnostic tests that include x-rays or MRIs of the affected joints may help with a diagnosis. A blood test can identify the blood factors and antibodies that are markers for rheumatoid arthritis.

Your personal and family medical history can provide a great deal of insight into the cause of your back pain. Researchers have learned that osteoarthritis is more common in people who have a family history of arthritis. It is also more common in women than in men. People whose jobs include physical labor or long periods of standing are also more prone to arthritis.

It is important to diagnose arthritis early. The sooner it is identified as the issue, the sooner treatment to prevent permanent joint damage can begin.

Arthritis and Facet Joint Syndrome Treatment

While there is no cure for arthritis or facet disease, consistent, quality treatment can help. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication can help ease the pain and swelling that are associated with arthritis and facet disease. There is also evidence that exercise, weight management, and a diet that involves avoiding inflammatory foods and eating ones rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help curb arthritis symptoms.

Physical therapy can help patients learn techniques to improve body mechanics to avoid excessive stress on affected joints. In some cases, joint injections and medial branch blocks can help provide pain relief when more conservative measures fail. Those who suffer from RA can get relief from medications that help suppress the body’s immune response.

To treat facet joint syndrome, Clearway Pain Solutions offers a range of minimally invasive procedures and injections. Our skilled team works with you to create the best treatment plan to relieve your pain from facet joint syndrome. After relieving your pain, you will be able to return to your active lifestyle. Call Clearway Pain Solutions to discuss options.

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