Most adults experience minor lower back pain, which is somehow typical. However, severe pain in the back may get worse as people become older. Facet arthrosis affects the older population and primarily young people with injuries or trauma on their backs. Facet joint arthropathy is an excruciatingly painful condition that can affect one’s life. Luckily, newer treatment methods have found a way to treat facet joint arthropathy.
What is facet joint arthropathy?
Facet joint arthropathy occurs due to the degeneration of the joints holding the vertebrae together. It may also happen due to the wear and tear of the cartilage present in the joints. It primarily affects the protective cushion containing fluids and cartilage between the joints. This cushion undergoes wear and tear to become thin or damaged. As a result, the bones start rubbing against each other during movement, causing swelling, pain, and stiffness. Despite not being curable, a spine specialist in Mumbai can help you manage the pain.
Causes of facet arthropathy
Osteoarthritis is a disease that causes degeneration of the joint cartilages. Even though it is common in the knee and hip joints, it can also affect joints on the back.
- Injuries and accidents
An injury due to an accident or in a sport can cause damage to one or more facet joints. When these joints are severely damaged, they lead to facet joint arthropathy.
- Facet joint wear and tear
Poor body posture and heavy lifting at the gym can cause disc problems which cause the cartilage to wear out.
- Synovial cyst
A synovial cyst develops within the spine as a fluid-filled sac, especially in aging people.
Symptoms of facet joint arthropathy
The most common symptom of facet joint arthropathy is pain. Other symptoms include
- Back and neck pain that gets worse when you bend or lean backward
- Extreme back pain when you lift heavy objects or twist the body
- Back and neck stiffness and total immobility
It is important to consult a specialist to determine the cause of the symptoms and pain, so that treatment can be planned accordingly.
Diagnosing facet joint arthropathy
A spine specialist in Mumbai can perform imaging tests to diagnose facet joint arthropathy. These tests examine the joints and bones in the spine to check for damaged facet joints. Other methods of diagnosis are:
- Physical examination
The doctor will carefully examine your back and the area around your neck to check your range of motion. Then, the patient will be instructed to make movements to help in locating the region causing tenderness and pain.
- Imaging tests
MRI and CT scan – These imaging tests can help locate damages and regeneration on the facet joint. The scans show detailed bone images obtained by passing a light beam through the spine.
Bone scan – The doctor injects a radioactive material through the veins into the body to assess bone density around the inflammation zone. The damaged joint section will absorb more of the radioactive dye.
X-ray – x-ray imaging penetrates the body to detect the spine’s condition and any damage.
Treating facet joint arthropathy
Facet joint arthropathy can be treated in many ways, including;
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen help reduce inflammation and manage pain. This medication should be taken under the doctor’s instructions for better recovery and to prevent side effects.
- Non-surgical treatments
Some treatments like physical therapy, minimal body movements, and strengthening exercises are considered non-surgical because they do not require incisions. Radiofrequency ablation and medial branch blocks are preferred because they have lower complications than other methods.
In Radiofrequency ablation, spine specialists in Mumbai use radiofrequency waves to shut down nerves affecting the facet joints. The nerve will therefore stop sending pain signals to the brain.
- Anesthetic injections
Anesthetic injections involve administering anesthetics or pain relievers to a patient’s spine. It is at best a temporary management of extreme pain.
- Spine surgery
When conservative therapies do not yield any results, the last option is surgery. Surgery helps relieve pain in people suffering from spinal instability, spinal stenosis, and nerve compressions. Spine specialists in Mumbai can perform total lumbar facet replacement to maintain motion in the joints. The damaged joints will be removed, and artificial joints will be installed to restore standard body height and movement.
Artificial disk replacement can also be done to protect the facet joints. The last treatment option is spinal fusion, where the surgeon will remove facet joints along the spine and fuse them. Fusing the facet joints prevents any future symptoms.
Preventing facet joint arthropathy
Even though facet arthropathy is untreatable, there are preventive measures to take. These include:
- Exercising regularly to keep the joints active
- Watching your weight to avoid osteoarthritis
- Taking precautions to avoid injuries, especially during sports and lifting
- Keeping your back straight when you walk, sit, or stand
- Eating a balanced diet to supply vital nutrients to the bone
If you have been diagnosed with facet joint arthropathy, you need to work with your doctor to develop a therapy plan. First, you have to learn about the condition, the diagnosis, treatments, and how to prevent aggravating it. Our doctors will also take you through medication, physiotherapy, and other non-surgical treatments. You can easily manage this illness with the right treatment plans.