Facet Joint Syndrome Diagnosis and Treatments
Diagnosing Facet Joint Syndrome
The key to finding the best treatment options is to start with an accurate diagnosis. When you come into our clinic seeking back pain relief, you’ll go through a comprehensive diagnostic process. That process may include:
- Your medical history. We want to hear about your symptoms as well as any treatments you’ve used for pain management and whether or not they gave you relief.
- Physical exam. A spine specialist will examine you for any limitations you are experiencing with movements or issues with your balance. They’ll also look for muscle weakness, numbness, or any other signs that you’ve experienced damage to your spinal cord.
- Testing. X-rays are normally taken to help our doctors rule out issues like infections. CT scans and MRIs can provide your spine specialist with a 3D view of the spine, which can help them spot issues like herniated discs.
Treatment Options for Facet Joint Syndrome
If your medical history, exam, and diagnostic testing reveal that you are suffering from facet joint syndrome, our spine specialist can then start the right course of treatment and care. There are a number of options available, including non-surgical ones, that can provide both temporary and potentially significant relief.
- Changing daily activities in order to lower the amount of stress placed on your back muscles
- Using anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxers, potentially even narcotic painkillers
- Alternating between hot and cold compresses for 24 to 48 hours
- Stretching, massage, and strengthening exercises
- Facet joint injections or medial branch injections, which can relieve the inflammation in the nerves as well as confirm the origin point for the pain
Least Invasive Procedures
If the treatments listed above don’t provide enough back pain relief or if your pain lasts for more than 6 months, then interventional pain management and diagnostic injections may be the next step.
- Radiofrequency Ablation
Using an x-ray, the spine specialist will insert a probe and target the medial branch nerve. The probe then heats up to ablate the nerve, relieving the patient’s pain. Patients can choose whether or not to be sedated. 70% of patients who have a percutaneous rhizotomy experience neck and back pain relief for an average of 3 months to 1 year.
- Endoscopic Rhizotomy
Patients are given conscious sedation, after which a 7mm tube is inserted to give the physician access to the affected facet joint. Using an HD camera, the spine specialist will use a radiofrequency probe to ablate the medial branch nerve. Clinical results show that 80% of patients experience back pain relief of 50% or more for up to 5 years. This endoscopic result is superior to results published about radiofrequency ablation.