Everything you need to know about facet osteoarthritis

Introduction to facet osteoarthritis

Facet syndrome is a type of musculoskeletal disorder that affects the spine. It occurs when the facet joints, located between the vertebrae, become inflamed and irritated due to age, trauma or tumor. In this text, we will discuss the prevalence of facet syndrome, its causes and symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

Facet osteoarthritis is also known by different names that describe the same condition.

Here is a list of synonyms for facet osteoarthritis:

  1. Facet syndrome
  2. Facet arthropathy
  3. Spondyloarthrosis
  4. Facet spondyloarthritis
  5. Facet osteoarthritis
  6. Osteoarthritis of the zygapophyseal joints
  7. Facet joint degeneration

All of these terms refer to the breakdown of cartilage in the facet joints of the spine, which can cause pain, inflammation, and reduced mobility.


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What are facet joints?

The spine is made up of 24 vertebrae which are connected by small joints called facets. These joints allow us to lean forward and backward and turn from side to side. When they become inflamed or irritated due to age, trauma or tumor, they can lead to pain and stiffness in the neck and back. This condition is known as facet syndrome.


Prevalence of facet syndrome

The prevalence of facet syndrome varies depending on various factors, such as age, the region of the spine affected, and the diagnostic methods used. Facet syndrome is a common cause of pain in the spine, especially in older adults, due to normal wear and tear on the facet joints over time.

  1. Age : The prevalence of facet syndrome increases with age, because aging causes natural degradation of facet joint cartilage. Studies estimate that 40 to 85 % people over the age of 65 have signs of facet osteoarthritis to varying degrees.
  2. Spinal region : The prevalence of facet syndrome also varies depending on the region of the spine affected. The lumbar region (lower back) is most commonly affected, followed by the cervical region (neck) and the thoracic region (mid back). Low back pain of facet origin represents approximately 15 to 45 % of cases of chronic low back pain.
  3. Sex : Women may be slightly more likely to develop facet syndrome than men, particularly in the cervical region. This may be due to differences in hormones, bone density and musculoskeletal structure.
  4. Risk factors : People with a history of spinal injuries, poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, or arthritic conditions are also more likely to develop facet syndrome.


It is important to emphasize that the prevalence of facet syndrome may vary depending on the diagnostic methods used and the population studied. Prevalence estimates may also be influenced by the definition of facet syndrome used in studies, as well as the presence of concomitant conditions that may mask or exacerbate facet syndrome symptoms.


Causes of facet syndrome

Facet syndrome can be caused by aging, trauma, or a tumor. As we age, joints naturally become stiffer due to wear and tear, which can lead to increased pressure on the facet joints and cause inflammation and irritation. Trauma, such as a fall or car accident, can also damage the facet joints and cause pain and stiffness in the area. Finally, tumors can put pressure on the spinal cord, causing neck and back discomfort, usually associated with facet joint syndrome.


However, it is important to remember that physical therapy is one of the most effective treatments for this condition. Regular exercise can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, which can relieve tension in sensitive areas of the body. Additionally, medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium may be prescribed to help reduce pain levels associated with facet syndrome.


It is important to note that certain activities and positions should be avoided when experiencing facet syndrome, as they can exacerbate the symptoms associated with this condition. It is best to avoid activities such as heavy lifting, twisting of the torso, or poor sitting positions when trying to manage this type of chronic pain.


In conclusion, many factors can contribute to facet syndrome, but a healthy diet combined with regular physical activity has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms.


Additionally, medications and various treatments can help reduce pain levels associated with facet syndrome. It is important to discuss with your doctor the treatment plan best suited to your case.


Finally, certain stretches and exercises can help reduce the pain associated with this condition. Stretches such as shoulder shrugs, shoulder rolls, and neck stretches can help reduce the pain associated with facet syndrome.


Here is a table of conditions and factors that can cause or contribute to the development of facet syndrome:

Condition/Factor Description
Aging Normal wear and tear on the facet joints over time can lead to cartilage breakdown and cause facet joint syndrome.
Overweight/Obesity Being overweight and obese puts additional pressure on the spine and facet joints, which can accelerate their wear and tear.
Injury/trauma Accidents, falls or sporting impacts can cause injuries to the facet joints and contribute to the development of the syndrome.
Bad posture Poor posture can cause uneven stress on the spine and facet joints, promoting wear and tear and pain.
Sedentary lifestyle Lack of physical activity and weak muscles around the spine can lead to instability and stress on the facets.
Arthritis Arthritic conditions, such as osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, can cause inflammation and degeneration of the facets.
Vertebral misalignment Misalignment of the vertebrae can cause uneven stress on the facet joints, leading to accelerated wear and facet syndrome.
Work overload Work or sporting activities that involve repetitive movements, bending or twisting may contribute to the syndrome.

It is important to note that facet syndrome can result from a combination of several of these conditions or factors. Prevention and treatment of facet syndrome may include weight management, improving posture, strengthening muscles, modifying work or sports activities, and treating underlying conditions.


List of the 10 most common causes of facet syndrome:

1. Degeneration of spinal discs

2. Repetitive trauma

3. Trauma

4. Aging

5. Genetics

6. Bad posture

7. Lifting heavy objects incorrectly

8. Smoking

9. Obesity

10. Too much bed rest and inactivity


Symptoms of facet syndrome

Symptoms of facet syndrome vary depending on where it is located in your spine (cervical/thoracic region or lumbar region). Typically, you may experience neck and shoulder discomfort, accompanied by headaches, if the syndrome is localized in the cervical/thoracic region, while stiffness when standing could indicate a lumbar location of your pain. .


Other symptoms include limited mobility due to stiffness, muscle spasms, tenderness to touch in nearby areas, numbness or tingling sensations, pain radiating down the arms or legs, difficulty moving sleeping due to discomfort, unexplained fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depression, loss of appetite, dizziness or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, etc.


The 8 Symptoms of Facet Syndrome:


Facet syndrome, also known as facet osteoarthritis or facet arthropathy, is a condition that affects the facet joints in the spine. These joints allow mobility and flexibility of the spine, but can become painful and inflamed due to wear and tear, injury, or degenerative disease. Here are 8 symptoms commonly associated with facet syndrome:

  1. Localized pain : The pain is usually localized around the affected facet joint, which may be in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar region of the spine.
  2. Pain that gets worse with movement : The pain may intensify during certain movements, such as flexion, extension or rotation of the spine.
  3. Stiffness and loss of flexibility : People with facet syndrome may experience stiffness and decreased flexibility in the spine, which can make daily movements difficult and painful.
  4. Referred pain : Pain can sometimes be felt in other parts of the body, such as the arms, legs, buttocks, or shoulders, depending on the region of the spine affected.
  5. Pain when touched : Inflamed facet joints may be tender to touch, causing pain when palpating the affected area.
  6. Pain that improves with rest : Pain and discomfort may improve when the person rests and avoids movements that exacerbate the pain.
  7. Loss of muscle strength : Pain and inflammation can lead to loss of muscle strength, especially in the muscles that support the spine.
  8. Headaches and neck pain : If the facet joints of the cervical spine are affected, headaches and neck pain may also be experienced.


Diagnosis of facet syndrome

The diagnostic process includes gathering information about your medical history, followed by physical examinations which may include x-rays or other imaging tests such as an MRI, if necessary, to rule out any underlying problems may be the cause of your symptoms, such as degenerative disc disease (e.g. pinched disc). Neurological examinations may also be carried out to assess how well the nerves are functioning during movement, as well as diagnostic injections which involve injecting an anesthetic into the affected areas to check whether relief is felt afterwards. thus confirming the diagnosis of certain conditions such as sciatica, for example, etc.


Therefore, the diagnosis involves taking into account the medical history as well as physical/neurological examinations and medical imaging (X-rays, MRI or SCAN) to confirm the diagnosis once other conditions have been ruled out.


Diagnosing facet syndrome can be a complex process, as symptoms may be similar to other spinal conditions, such as herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or degenerative disc disease. Here are the general steps for diagnosing facet syndrome:

  1. Initial medical assessment : The healthcare professional will collect information about the patient's medical history, current symptoms, and potential precipitating factors. The physical exam will include an assessment of posture, mobility, and spinal sensitivity, as well as muscle strength and reflex testing.
  2. Diagnostic Imaging : Imaging tests, such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scan, can be used to examine the spine and facet joints in detail. These exams help identify signs of osteoarthritis, inflammation or degeneration of the facet joints, and rule out other spinal problems.
  3. Diagnostic facet block : A diagnostic facet block is a test that involves injecting a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid into the facet joint suspected of being the source of the pain. If the pain decreases significantly after the injection, this may confirm that the facet joint is the cause of the pain. It is important to note that this test is not always conclusive and may require several attempts to obtain reliable results.
  4. Additional tests : In some cases, additional tests may be needed to rule out other possible causes of the pain, such as muscle problems, pinched nerves, or infections.


Once the diagnosis of facet syndrome is confirmed, a personalized treatment plan can be developed to relieve pain and improve spinal function. Treatment options may include treatment of Spinal decompression therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, corticosteroid injections, lifestyle changes, osteopathy and, in more severe cases, surgery.


Here is a comparative table of conditions similar to facet syndrome, with their similarities, differences and how to recognize them:

Condition Similarities Differences How to recognize them
Facet syndrome Pain and stiffness in the spine Specifically affects the facet joints Pain that worsens with movement, tenderness to touch, pain that improves with rest
Herniated disc Pain in the spine, stiffness Caused by an intervertebral disc that compresses the nerves Pain radiating into the arms or legs (sciatica), made worse by coughing, sneezing, or sitting
Spinal stenosis Pain and stiffness in the spine Narrowing of the spinal canal that compresses the spinal cord or nerves Pain that improves when leaning forward, worse with prolonged walking or standing
Degenerative disc disease Pain in the spine, stiffness Degeneration of intervertebral discs, causing spinal instability Chronic pain, usually aggravated by certain movements, relief by changing position
Spondylolisthesis Pain and stiffness in the spine Sliding of one vertebra over another, causing spinal instability Pain radiating down the legs, worse with prolonged walking or standing, relief when sitting
Rheumatoid arthritis Pain and stiffness in the spine, inflammation Affects multiple joints, causes systemic inflammation Prolonged morning stiffness, pain in other joints, fatigue, low-grade fever, loss of appetite
Fibromyalgia Pain in the spine Caused by trigger points in the muscles Localized muscle pain, tender trigger points, pain that improves with massage or muscle relaxation

It is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, as some of these conditions may require different treatment approaches.


Foraminal stenosis and facet osteoarthritis

The stenosis foraminal is a condition that affects the spine, leading to the narrowing of the spinal canal where the nerves emerge between each vertebra and causing compression of these nerves in the back. This can cause pain and other symptoms that can be very uncomfortable.


Foraminal stenosis occurs, among other things, when the facet joints, located on either side of each vertebra of the spine, become arthritic (facet joint arthropathy). The spinal canal then becomes narrower than normal, putting pressure on the nerves in the lower back. As a result, people with foraminal stenosis often experience severe pain in their lower back or legs, as well as numbness or tingling.


Other possible causes include degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae due to aging, herniated discs, or abnormal spinal posture to avoid pain (analgesic posture). Neurovertebral decompression therefore makes it possible to treat the cause of facet syndrome, facet osteoarthritis and foraminal stenosis, because it reduces the internal pressure of the discs, rehydrates the discs, changes the posture and ultimately reduces the pressure. exerted on the spinal nerves.


Although it is not always possible to completely prevent this condition due to age-related wear and tear, certain preventative measures can help reduce the risk, including maintaining a healthy weight and strength level. health, as well as proper posture and technique during activities involving bending, twisting and lifting, and regular osteopathic care for correct spinal alignment as well as supportive spinal decompression therapy treatments.


If you experience symptoms associated with foraminal stenosis, please consult your healthcare professional for further advice and treatment options available to you!


Treatment of facet syndrome

Treatment usually begins conservatively with spinal decompression therapy treatments, specific osteopathy, thermal therapy (ice packs), anti-inflammatory medications (as advised by your doctor), including non-steroidal medications, corticosteroids, opioid analgesics, muscle relaxants, etc. or injections (facet block). Depending on the severity, location, and the advice of your healthcare professional, some treatments may be more appropriate than others.


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Facet block injection is a procedure used to relieve chronic neck and back pain. The injections contain cortisone and numbing medications that are injected into the facets of the spine by a doctor. This helps reduce inflammation in the nerves, which can help relieve pain.



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A facet block injection involves inserting a small needle into the affected area of your spine. The needle delivers a mixture of cortisone and xylocaine (a numbing medication) directly into the joint capsule or surrounding soft tissue. This helps reduce inflammation in these areas and relieve chronic pain. Depending on your case, you may need several injections over time to get maximum relief from your symptoms. Administering each injection usually takes only a few minutes. Please note that you will have to wait two (2) weeks before undertaking osteopathic or spinal decompression therapy treatments after your facet block.


In summary, facet block is an effective way to relieve chronic neck and back pain caused by facet osteoarthritis, if your pain is unbearable. As facet block has certain risks and side effects, it is therefore better to try less invasive treatments (osteopathy and spinal decompression therapy) initially, if your pain is bearable, before opting for this treatment.


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Facet syndrome can be a debilitating condition that affects the spine, causing severe pain and limited mobility. Fortunately, there are many treatment options that can reduce symptoms or even eliminate them altogether. Neurovertebral decompression and specific osteopathy is often recommended for mild to medium cases of facet syndrome, as it helps relieve pain and improve flexibility.

However, if physical therapy does not relieve symptoms, other interventions such as steroid injections, radiofrequency ablation, or surgery may be necessary in more severe cases of facet syndrome. It is important to discuss all possible treatments with your healthcare provider before beginning any type of treatment plan, in order to find the best option to relieve your specific symptoms.

Published research/studies in Spinal Decompression Therapy


Download the research that has been published regarding spinal decompression therapy:


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FREE special report on spinal decompression to download

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Preparations for spinal decompression therapy treatment for facet syndrome

  • Book your appointment online or contact our staff at the TAGMED clinic to book your appointment by phone.
  • Before going to the TAGMED clinic in Montreal or Terrebonne for your first treatment, there are some things you should absolutely do. First, make sure you have your medical imaging reports (X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound) available.
  • Also, make sure you are aware of the various possible risks and side effects associated with treatment at Tagmed Clinic. You should also take all necessary measures (ex. Apply ice to the inflamed area to ensure that your body is ready for further treatment.
  • Also, make sure you are aware of the various possible risks and side effects associated with treatment at Tagmed Clinic. You should also take all necessary measures (ex. Apply ice to the inflamed area to ensure that your body is ready for further treatment.
  • Finally, if you were unable to complete our form, as mentioned above, arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time to ensure you have enough time to discuss your condition, make the assessment and your treatment.

To be completed before your consultation at TAGMED clinic

Download, print and complete this questionnaire (your health history), before consulting us, in order to save time. (Click on the tablet!)

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