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Dr. Perry What are the advantages of Laser Spine Institute?
Dr. Michael Perry, Chief Medical Director and Co-Founder of Laser Spine Institute, explains the breakthrough procedures and gives you the opportunity to find out whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery.

Facet Disease Overview

Your facet joints act as hinges in the spine, allowing the vertebrae to move back and forward, enabling everyday motions like bending over or leaning forward. Like any joint in the body, a facet joint has a cartilage lining (allowing bone to glide smoothly over one another) and a capsule surrounding it. Located on each side of the vertebrae, facet joints can degenerate due to the injury, misuse or simply the normal wear and tear of everyday life. In fact, degeneration of the facet joints in the spine is a natural part of the aging process. Facet disease often begins with slight aches and pains in the back from time to time that gradually become severe enough to warrant a visit to a physician, who may also use the words facet arthritis, degenerative facet joints or facet joint syndrome to describe the condition.

Facet disease symptoms

Symptoms of facet disease may begin as slight aches and pains that are easy to chalk up to getting older. Before long, the symptoms may gradually become a regular, unwanted intruder in your everyday life. The symptoms can vary, depending on where the affected vertebrae are located in your back, the degree of degeneration and other factors. For example, a worn-out facet joint in the neck (or cervical spine) creates symptoms in the upper back, neck and shoulders, while a degenerated facet joint in the lower back (or lumbar spine) produces symptoms felt in the lower back and possibly the buttocks and thighs. These symptoms include:

  • Pain that is around the affected joint in the spine and/or nearby regions of the body
  • Stiffness in the spine (guarding)
  • Tenderness, with the area of the back near the affected joint feeling sensitive to touch

Facet disease causes

Once your physician informs you that you have facet disease, you’ll likely want to know what caused your facet joints to break down in the first place. The answer isn’t simple because it’s hard to pin down a single cause of this deterioration, which is actually inevitable as we age. Instead, there are actually several risk factors that contribute to the wear and tear, including:

  • The natural aging process, including the fact that cartilage wears down over time and cushioning spinal discs become thinner
  • Heredity, with genes playing a role in the amount of cartilage you have and its susceptibility to damage
  • Physically demanding careers
  • A very active lifestyle, especially participation in rough sports
  • Previous injury, such as a car accident or previous trauma
  • Obesity, which puts more stress on the spine, resulting in a faster and more severe breakdown of the facet joints
  • Poor diet, which may provide inadequate nutrition required to generate and repair cartilage

Facet disease treatment

The purpose of facet disease treatment is to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with facet disease, facet arthritis, facet joint syndrome, facet hypertrophy and degenerative facet joints. A physician may initially recommend one or more of the following conservative treatment options:

  • Non-prescription medication like acetaminophen
  • Diagnostic facet injections
  • Yoga, or other low-impact stretching exercises for the hamstring muscles
  • Strength training for muscle tone
  • Water therapy, including swimming
  • Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulations
  • Posture corrections
  • Activity modification
  • The use of a back brace
  • Rest

If these conservative treatments fail to provide relief after several weeks or months, luckily there are other options, including the minimally invasive, outpatient procedures performed at Laser Spine Institute. Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive procedures offer a safer and effective alternative to open spine surgery, with a lower risk of complication and a quicker recovery time^ that makes it possible for patients to experience relief after their procedure.

Additional Information on Common Spine Conditions