What is a facet syndrome?
The facet syndrome is not a clearly defined disease. The name implies, however, that the symptoms originate in the small intervertebral joints - the facet joints. These facet joints are well nerved and are subject to degenerative processes. They are therefore an element of the spine, which is probably responsible for much back pain. It is estimated that facet joints are to blame in about 15% of the younger people and in up to 40% of the older patients.
What are the causes of a facet syndrome?
The facet joints bear a large share of the static load on the spine, but they are subject to even more stress with movements - especially when bending or twisting. There are degenerative processes in the facets similar to those in other joints of the body and therefore osteoarthritis may develop.
What are the symptoms of a facet syndrome?
A characteristic symptom of a facet syndrome is dull pain in the lumbar spine, which usually largely varies in its intensity. It may radiate also into the buttocks, the legs or into the groin. The symptoms, thus, resemble those of a herniated disc. In contrast to the slipped disc, the pain distribution cannot be allocated to a specific nerve root or an associated dermatome. As a result, this is sometimes calles "pseudoradicular" pain.
How is a facet syndrome treated?
In mild cases, often a temporary administration of pain medication and a structured and individualized strengthening program will help the patient. If this therapy is not successful, a treatment with minimally invasive procedures can be considered. Here, the pain-causing nerve fibres are either directly flooded with analgesics or completely disrupted with radio frequency.