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Facet joints are the structures that connect the spinal vertebrae to each other. A facet joint is like many other joints in the body — it has a cartilage lining that allows the bones to glide smoothly over each other and is surrounded by a protective capsule. The function of a facet joint is to provide stability, mobility and support to the spine. Each vertebra has two facet joints, one on each side.
Diagnosing facet disease
Some of the terms commonly used in the diagnosis of facet problems include:
- Facet arthritis
- Facet joint syndrome
- Facet disease
- Facet hypertrophy
- Degenerative facet joints
These terms all refer to essentially the same thing — osteoarthritis or degeneration of a facet joint.
Causes of facet disease
Facet disease is caused by the cartilage in the joints being worn down as a result of wear, aging, injury or misuse. This type of injury to the spine can be attributed to arthritis of the spine, work, over-use or an accident. Facet disease occurs when a facet joint degenerates. While this can take place at any level of the spine, it most commonly affects the lumbar (lower spine) region. Another possible result of facet disease is spondylolisthesis, which occurs when a vertebra slips forward in relation to an adjacent vertebra, usually in the lumbar spine.
Symptoms of facet disease
Symptoms related to facet joint problems are usually localized to the area of the affected joint and are often experienced in the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back) and lumbar (lower back) regions. Common symptoms that occur in patients with facet disease include:
- Lower back pain that radiates to the buttocks and upper thigh area.
- Pain may occur in the back of the neck and radiate to the top of the shoulders or around the neck.
- Bone spurs
- Tenderness in the spine
- Conservative treatments for facet disease
Since there are many causes of neck and back pain, it is important to obtain a proper diagnosis. Facet disease diagnosis is relatively easy to accomplish with a thorough physical exam or a diagnostic facet injection (a numbing medication injected into the facet joint). If the source of the pain is the facet joint, then the pain should resolve immediately after the injection. If the pain persists after an injection, it may be caused by spinal stenosis or a herniated/bulging disc, which require different treatments.
Minimally invasive facet disease surgery
If an injection doesn’t effectively relieve the pain, the next step could be a laser facet thermal ablation, which is performed through a small tube and is a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery. The laser, fiber optics and irrigation apparatus are placed in the tube to facilitate surgery on the facet joint. Facet thermal ablation is normally performed in combination with a decompression procedure.
The board-certified surgeons at Laser Spine Orlando will use a small incision to debride (clean) the joint and deaden the local joint nerve, similar to a root canal procedure performed by an endodontist on a tooth. Laser facet thermal ablation takes a short period of time to complete and can help resolve the pain associated with the facet joint. Contact our dedicated team with any questions or concerns you may have about our outpatient procedures.
Laser Spine Orlando is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. To find out if you are a candidate, reach out to Laser Spine Brevard today.
Minimize Your Recovery
Our Approach to Pain
Our minimally invasive procedures are highly focused and designed specifically for each patient. Every procedure is done outpatient, which means the patient can go home the same day. At Laser Spine Orlando, your relief is our mission. Every member of our team, from your patient advocate to your surgeon, will have that mission in mind.
Why Choose Laser Spine Orlando
Laser Spine Orlando believes in a comprehensive approach to spine pain care. Each patient is treated as an individual with personalized treatment and therapy to achieve their personal goals.
15,000 Successful Surgeries
Minimally Invasive Procedures
Pain Free Living
– John S
– Joseph R.
The staff at Laser Spine Orlando and Dr. Molloy are extremely professional and puts the needs of the patient ahead of themselves. I was able to get an appointment right away with Dr. Molloy after filling out a form online and within two weeks was able to get a much-needed surgery to help relieve my back and leg pain. I love these guys. -Patricia C.
I want to thank Dr. Molloy and the staff at Laser Spine Orlando for giving me my life back. Before seeing them I could barely walk and my pain didn’t allow me to do anything around the house. After my surgery, I was pain-free within a week and was able to care for my husband without the thought of having to lie down and rest due to pain. -Margaret W
Laser Spine Orlando has an awesome group of doctors and staff – Cherise N
Laser Spine Orlando is the only place I’ve found that has a board-certified neurosurgeon and an equally stellar staff that helps patients through the entire surgical process- Sam F