Facet Arthropathy is a commonly misdiagnosed cause of back pain. It is caused by degeneration and arthritis that affects the facet joints in the spine. Facet joints are located between the vertebrae and allow the neck, trunk, and lower back to move, bend, and twist smoothly. These facet joints are subject to ongoing stress because they help keep normal alignment, restrict and control the motion of the spine.
- Severe back pain
- Shooting leg pain
- Pain that is worse in the morning
- Pain that is aggravated by bending backward
Severe back pain is the most common symptom of facet arthropathy. It may be accompanied by shooting leg pain that is often misdiagnosed as sciatica. It is frequently worse in the morning, and may be aggravated by bending backward.
- Recent Injury
- Spinal Degeneration
Our doctors take time to discuss your symptoms and perform a physical exam to rule out other disorders. Physical abnormalities of the facet joint can be detected with imaging studies such as an X-ray, an MRI, or a CT scan. The most effective test for detecting facet arthropathy is the SPECT bone scan, which involves the injection of a harmless radiotracer into your bloodstream. This tracer will migrate to the areas in your body that are experiencing the most inflammation, and can be viewed with specialized equipment. Facet arthropathy is diagnosed if the tracer is found in the facet joints.
The first step to treat facet arthropathy is medication to reduce inflammation such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID) or oral steroids. Physical therapy may also be prescribed to help loosen and stretch the facet joints.
The second step to treat facet arthropathy is to inject steroids directly into the joint in a minimally invasive procedure called intra-articular steroid injection. These injections typically provide fast relief from pain once you have stopped responding to other forms of pain management.
For more serious facet arthropathy, our doctors specialize in a procedure called facet or median nerve denervation. This minimally invasive procedure desensitizes the nerves near the facet joints and prevents you from experiencing back pain.