Facet Syndrome

Facet Syndrome

Facet syndrome is a condition which can greatly affect daily life. It is characterized by back pain caused by facet joints.

Facet joints is a term used to denote a set of joints which function between two vertebrae. They work in pairs and their main task is to regulate any movement within the spinal motion segment. Aside from guidance in movement, they also deal with protection of spine from various kinds of detrimental movements. For example, the motion segment can get damaged from overwhelming flexion and rotation movements, as well as anterior shear forces. This is something that facet joints work to prevent.

However, the mechanism of operation of facet joints can be hindered or prevented by various different causes, including injury, fracture, trauma, dislocation, surgery, osteoarthritis and degeneration.

In many cases facet syndrome is just a step in the development of more severe conditions such as spinal osteoarthritis (spondylosis). This is why it is important to treat facet syndrome before it develops further.

Facet Syndrome Symptoms

The most common symptom is the feeling of dull pain either in lumbar or cervical spine. These two spinal segments account for almost 90% of facet syndrome occurrences. Lumbar spine is more affected, since it is the part which is very mobile while at the same time it has to support much of the body weight.

The pain can start at one of these places, but then radiate to the legs. Moreover, it can be increased by any form of stress on the facet joints. This stress does not have to be severe or coming from some kind of a trauma or injury. The pain can be worsened by simple things such as standing for a long time.

Muscle spasms are also common for some patients, since a facet joint with severe inflammation can cause severe muscle spasm.

Bending forward and backward Facet Syndrome
Bending forward and backward
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A term often connected with issues with facet joints is facet joint arthritis (also called facet arthropathy). It is an intervertebral disc disorder which stems from degenerative changes caused by the mechanical nature of the facet joints.

Facet joint arthritis is often treated using physical therapy, osteopathic solutions, chiropractic and steroid injections intended to deal with pain. However, as you will see below, pain and inflammation can be treated using far safer solutions.

Another issue commonly present in the area is hypolordosis, which is a condition when the spine has less of a curve in the lumbar area than a healthy one does. The change in the form of the spine puts noticeably more strain on the lumbar area and often causes injury or degeneration of the facet joints.

A big problem for facet syndrome is the fact that at the time when the inflammation is the worst, the symptoms resemble the ones of a herniated disc, or various kinds of fractures and muscle injuries in the back.

Facet Syndrome Treatment

Dealing with inflammation and making stomach and back muscles stronger (usually via some sort of physiotherapy) is the initial course of action. In many cases this can help deal with the symptoms, since it stabilizes the condition within the spine and relieves the pressure on the facet joints. However, it is essential that the exercises be done properly and under control of an expert. Exercising in a way which is not suitable can bring additional pain, but also injuries which can cause further degeneration.

Even more conservative forms of treatment include posture correction and massage.

The next step, required only if the ones described above fail to do away with the condition, is some kind of a procedure such as facet infiltration. This solution is invasive and many people feel very uncomfortable at the very thought of it. However, despite the fear, it is considered minimally invasive and necessary in case physiotherapy and dealing with inflammation do not yield satisfactory results. Moreover, facet infiltration is usually done using corticosteroids which have well-documented side effects.

Also, many people opt for opioids and NSAIDs. Although they are effective against pain, they come with a host of side effects which create a whole new set of problems for the patients, not to mention the perils of the prolonged use.

This is why dealing with pain and inflammation in a different way is a far more acceptable option. The best option is a natural anti-inflammatory pain reliever called Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA). It is based on a fatty acid amide called palmitoylethanolamide, which is naturally produced in the body to affect endocannabinoid receptors and aid muscle recovery, relieve inflammation and reduce or completely eliminate pain.

It normalizes the condition within the inflamed cells, making them healthy and perfectly functioning again. During the cell healing process, PEA also helps relieve pain through reduction in neutrophils influx and expression of COX-2 and iNOS.

PEA plays a significant role in relieving facet syndrome before it develops into a more severe condition and calls for very invasive procedures. Furthermore, it has no side effects and no contrainteractions with other drugs, so it is probably the safest way of attempting to treat facet syndrome or any of its accompanying conditions.