Each segment of the spine has two stabilizing joints, called facet joints. Years of wear and tear on your spine's facet joints can lead to a type of osteoarthritis called facet arthropathy. People with facet arthropathy experience pain and stiffness, but the condition can also lead to the development of bone spurs, cysts, or instability that can be severely uncomfortable or compress nearby nerves. This occurs most commonly in the low back and neck where the joints normally allow motion.
At Twin Cities Spine Center (TC Spine), our spine specialists are experts at facet arthropathy treatment. We've been treating this form of spinal arthritis for over 70 years and have helped numerous patients relieve their back pain.
What Causes Facet Arthropathy?
Facet joint arthropathy is often due to degeneration of the discs along the spinal column. Disc degeneration can put abnormal stress and pressure on your facet joints, leading to deformity or abnormal motion in the joints themselves.
Facet arthropathy can also be caused by trauma or injury to your spine, while some people may have a genetic predisposition to degenerative arthritis.
What Are the Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy?
Facet joint arthropathy or arthritis can cause lower back pain that worsens with standing, twisting or bending. Often the pain is confined to a specific area of your spine, however, in some cases, the pain may radiate to your side, buttocks or legs. When involving the neck, the pain may present as headaches or radiate into the shoulders, shoulder blades or arms.
If bony overgrowths on the facet joints impinge on nerves traveling through your spinal canal, spinal stenosis may develop. Spinal stenosis can also cause pain and limit movement.
Facet Arthropathy Diagnosis and Treatment
Decades of specialized practice have made the spine doctors at TC Spine experts at diagnosing and treating facet arthropathy.
Diagnosis starts with a thorough physical examination to determine the extent of your condition. Your spine specialist may also order imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans or an MRI. A bone scan might be used to view the areas of spinal inflammation.
We believe in a careful approach to treatment. That's why your facet arthropathy treatment often begins with activity changes and physical therapy. We work with experienced physical therapists who will teach you how to avoid movements that can worsen the pain and show you exercises to strengthen your core muscles and improve function.
Additional treatments may include injections of corticosteroids to ease inflammation. Sometimes an ablation procedure may be recommended, which manages the nerves that are the source of pain. In some cases, surgery may be helpful. Our trusted team of surgeons at TC Spine can perform the procedure, should that level of treatment become necessary.