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What is Facet Disease?

Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018

Back pain is a common ailment that affects everyone at some point. However, when does backpain evolve from a simple condition to a cause of concern? That’s when patients need to be educated about facet disease. There’s a difference between that time you lifted a heavy bin or sat in one posture for too long, and you get a back pain that passes within a day or two. That’s not a reason to worry or to go to the doctor for an extensive diagnosis. However, what if you had occasional periods of acute pain and you had no idea what triggered them? It might be time to get checked out for facet disease, a disorder that affects the facet joints of the spine.

What is facet disease? To fully understand the disorder, you must know the anatomy of the spine. There is a three-joint complex that functions at each level of your spine. More specifically, there are two facet joints in the back and large disc in the front. Each one of your intervertebral segments is composed that way. The intervertebral segments are designed for function so that we can have mobility, support, and stability in the way that we move. There is a reason that the facet joints are shaped and angled differently in the cervical, lumbar and thoracic spine. This configuration allows for all the available motion within the spine.

Facet joint damage occurs when things like: aging, specifically wear and tear on the body, obesity or the burden of extra weight, injury or trauma to the spine, or jobs that put extra strain on the spine take a toll. When the pain stems from the facet joints is known as “facet syndrome”. This happens when the facet joints become inflamed and result in soreness, pain, and stiffness in the spine. Most patients have a worsening of the pain with the extension of the spine or extended periods of inactivity like sitting or standing too long. Some patients find that their facet diseases peaks in the morning and gets better as they move around and the day progresses. However, for those patients that work all day, sitting with poor posture, the pain might last all day.

The spine is intricately designed for maximum mobility, support, and range of motion in the human body. The three-joint complex that functions at each level of the spine includes the facet joints which are a unique shape and angle. This design of the human body allows to maximum range of motion while keeping the spine in place. Facet disease experienced as acute pain is a result of damage to the facet joints. Whether from obesity or weight bearing jobs, the facet joints become inflamed and cause significant discomfort to the patient. Sometimes, the pain gets better if the patient moves around or has better posture during the workday. However, facet disease should not be ignored. An appropriate diagnosis and course of treatment can relieve the pain and discomfort for the patient suffering from facet disease.