Facet joints are part of the spinal column. Two of these joints are found between each of the 24 non-fused vertebrae that form the spine. The remaining nine fused vertebrae in the coccyx and sacral sections of the spine do not have these joints.
Facet joints have a disc between them and are surrounded by ligaments. The joints contain joint fluid that provides lubrication during joint movement. Sometimes the joints can become painful from age or injury, fractures, damaged ligaments, excess pressure on the joints or a loss of lubrication, which creates too much friction.
Who should consider facet joint surgery?
Conservative treatments for pain involving facet joints include pain-relieving medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroid injections, or muscle relaxants. Additional techniques may use traction, manipulation and strengthening exercises. When these options do not provide the needed relief, injected numbing medications may be utilized. Another option is nerve ablation, where an electrical current is used to destroy the faulty nerve that is sending a pain impulse.
Facet fusion is used when the conservative methods are not a viable solution, or have failed in the past. The vertebrae in the affected area will be fused together to stop all movement in the joints. Eliminating the movement of the facet joints eliminates the pain. In some cases, one or more facet joints may be fused to further ease painful or dysfunctional conditions.
Advantages of minimally invasive techniques
When minimally invasive techniques are used, patients will experience a more rapid recovery. Once the facets are successfully fused, there will be no more motion in the area and therefore, no more pain in the joint. Fusion can provide the relief needed that allows patients to go about their daily activities, and do so without relying on heavy pain medications that can interfere with their lives.
To learn more about facet fusion surgery or to discuss other options, contact our Neurosurgery and Spine team at NYC Surgical Associates, where we are happy to discuss this and any other options that may pertain to your care. You may contact us at 888-286-6600 or by submitting our online contact form.