What is a Facet Joint?
Every level of your spine contains two facet joints. Each pair of facet joints guides and limits movement of the spinal motion segment. In the lumbar spine, for example, the facet joints function to protect the motion segment from anterior shear forces, excessive rotation and flexion. Cavitation of the synovial fluid within the facet joints is responsible for the popping sound (crepitus) associated with manual spinal manipulation, commonly referred to as “cracking the back.”
What is Facet Joint Hypertrophy?
Facet Hypertrophy is the term used to describe a degeneration and enlargement of the facet joints.
Causes of Facet Joint Hypertrophy
The facet joints can become damaged and painful by degeneration, dislocation, fracture, injury, osteoarthritis, and instability from trauma. Hypertrophy in your facet joints is related to spinal arthritis, and like spinal arthritis, it usually occurs as the effects of age, wear and tear, poor posture and/or injuries take root. The loss of disc height also puts more stress and pressure on the facet joints which can lead to facet joint hypertrophy.
Facet Joint Hypertrophy Treatments
Injection of steroids into the facet joints can help relieve pain for a long period of time. Other conservative approaches include anti-inflammatory drugs, and physical therapy. For long-term relief and in more severe cases, a rhizotomy (burning the anterior or posterior spinal nerve roots) may be done. For patients who continue to have severe pain and disability after more conservative treatments, there is the option to completely replacing the damaged facet joints to bring back stability and proper motion of the spinal segment. This is accomplished with Facet Joint Replacement.