The facet joints are the joints in your spine that connect the spinal vertebrae. These joints create flexibility in your spine and allow for movement. Without facet joints, you would not be able to bend or twist your upper body. Each individual vertebra along your spine save for the very top vertebrae contains two sets of facet joints – a pair that faces up and a pair that faces down. These joints are like hinges that link the vertebrae in your spine and are found along the backside of your spine. These are the bony bumps you feel when you press your hand along your spine.
Facet joints are synovial joints, meaning each joint is engulfed by connective tissue that lubricates the joint with synovial fluid. The surfaces of healthy facet joints are coated with cartilage. The cartilage allows the joints to move smoothly and glide against each other without causing discomfort.
Pain from facet joints occurs when the joints become swollen. This typically occurs with osteoarthritis, a condition in which the cartilage that protects bones deteriorates. Pain ensues from the bones grinding against each other without the protection of cartilage. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, a general term for disorders involving the inflammation of joints. Osteoarthritis affects over 25 million Americans and is most common in people who are 60 or older. It is also known as degenerative joint disease.
Facet joint syndrome is pain that stems specifically from osteoarthritis that occurs in the facet joints. This can come about from simple aging, added pressure to the facet joints, or an injury. As the intervertebral discs in your spine start to waste away, the space between the individual vertebrae shrinks. The narrowing of that space changes the way the facet joints line up and can place too much pressure on the cartilaginous surfaces of those joints. Excessive pressure in the long-term causes the cartilage to waste away as well.
Many patients who experience facet joint syndrome struggle to twist and bend their spine. Those with facet joint syndrome affecting their cervical spine (the region around the neck) have to turn their entire bodies to look in either direction. Facet joint pain in the lower spine can make it difficult to straighten your back. If it feels uncomfortable to get up off a chair, this could be the reason.
Only a skilled pain management physician can tell you for sure if what you are experiencing is due to an issue with your facet joints. Don’t hesitate to contact Garden State Pain Control at 973-777-0304 to book an appointment with one of our board-certified pain doctors today.