Facet Arthritis

Some Interesting Facts about Facet Arthritis

Lumber joint facet arthritis is a condition that gets worse over time. This is because of the spinal degeneration associated with this condition. Facet arthritis can be virtually unnoticed until a sharp movement or twist causes extreme lower back pain. By then the person affected with this condition must seek medical care for this painful type of arthritis.

The spinal column is made up of vertebra and linked together by facet joints. Articular cartilage covers these areas where the vertebra and the facet joints meet. Joints throughout the body that are covered with articular cartilage are most susceptible to arthritis.

The spine has 24 bones called the vertebra. These vertebra and facet joints make up the spinal column. They are stacked up one on top of the other. The whole complete spinal area gives our bodies support and also gives the body a form. Since the articular cartilage covers the facet joint, it can become the target of arthritis.

If any of these structures get too much pressure or are worn on too much, it can eventually cause the facet joints to rub together. Fractures, disc problems or abnormal movement can also cause the spine to become out of line. This is when arthritis attacks.
Because of the added pressure, the body will try to correct this problem itself by making bone spurs. These spurs try to protect both the vertebra and the spinal column. This condition is called hypertrophy. The articular cartilage eventually wears away and it leaves a bone on bone scrapping that is highly painful.

Symptoms of facet arthritis can include pain in the lower back, and this pain can spread down into the buttocks and thigh area. Because of the nerve compression a tingly or numb feeling might be also felt. If the unusual movement that is causing this tingly feeling isn’t stopped, further damage can be seen. When bone spurs form they can also leave the nerve exposed. From constant irritation, the nerve becomes swollen and can also leave the person in a great deal of pain.

A doctor can determine just how bad the problem is. He can pin point the activity that is causing the malfunctioning of the vertebra by doing tests. X rays are given to locate the problem. Magnetic resonance imaging or a MRI test uses magnetic waves to create a clear picture of the affected tissue. This picture is much clearer then the X ray and it specifically pin points the affected area. Computed tomography or a CT scan can see any developing or existing bone spurs. It also records the over all degeneration of the area. A fluoroscope test may also be used. It is a long surgical needle that penetrates the affected area. The doctor then injects a numbing serum into the affected nerve. He painstakingly goes over these areas to make sure he knows where the problem lies.


When your doctor has determined where and exactly what the problem is, there are many ways to either eradicate it or help to reduce the pain. If you have both figured out what activity is causing the facet arthritis, you can then start to heal the problem.

An anti inflammatory drug may be prescribed to attempt to bring some relief to the swollen painful areas. With any type of back pain, there can be muscle spasms. So the doctor might also prescribe a muscle relaxer to ease the spasms. Or he may refer you to a rehabilitation therapist. There you will have certain exercises, stretches and massages to try to stop the pain. If the problem has an affect on your quality of life, surgery may be the only last resort answer.