Degenerative Joint Disease of the Spine

Facet joints arthritis is also known as Degenerative Joint Disease of the Spine caused by a degeneration or osteoarthritis of the facet joints of the spine, causing back pain and referred pain.

The most well known disease causes of back pain are bulging discs and herniated discs. Both of these back problems involve a weakening or tearing of the outer wall of the discs that separate these vertebral bones. When the wall weakens, it may bulge outwards in a condition known as a bulging disc. When the wall frays to the point of tearing, the material on the inside of the disc is expelled through the hold, further damaging the structural integrity of the disc. This condition is known as a herniated disc. Both of these conditions may cause severe back pain or disability when the wall or material from the disc extends into the nearby spinal canal and nerve roots, affecting these nerve branches. Herniated discs and bulging discs are typically the cause of referred pain and sciatica.

Other degenerative changes to the spine involve the facet joints. The facet joints are the connections with the adjacent vertebrae. At the vertebral arch of each vertebral bone, there are two processes that project upwards and two processes that project downwards to link each vertebral bone to the one above it and blow it. The upwards processes are the bilateral superior articular processes, and the downward processes are the inferior articular processes. The location where each process meets up with its connecting piece in the adjacent vertebra is called the facet. There is a layer of smooth cartilage between the faces of each facet to prevent osteoarthritis caused by friction. Two maintain the bond between the facets, a capsule of ligaments and connective tissue holds the facets in place. all of the anatomy mentioned above encompasses the facet joint. When one or more of these facet joints wears out or separates partially from one another, the condition may be known as facet joint arthritis, or degenerative joint disease of the spine.

Symptoms: Some symptoms of facet joint osteoarthritis include:
  • Pain, inflammation, and tenderness near the affected joints
  • More discomfort leaning backwards than forwards
  • Referred pain, such as radiating pain down the arms or legs
Treatments: The available treatments available to treat Degenerative Joint Disease of the Spine include conservative therapies such as anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and Facet Injections. Facet injections are injections of either steroids or anesthetics into the affected facet joints. These injections are done after confirmation of inflammation or degeneration of the facet joints. Making a correct diagnosis of this condition is challenging because the its symptoms is very similar to other causes of back pain. X-ray images do not typically produce enough detain of the facet joints to make a positive indication of this degenerative condition. Often a CT Scan is ordered to confirm Degenerative Joint Disease of the Spine. Typically, doctors don't recommend facet injections alone, but as a component of a more comprehensive treatment program that includes back exercises of physical therapy. Most treatments other than physical therapy are used only during the acute phase of this condition. When the patients pain levels have stabilized, doctors will recommend therapies designed to stabilize the spine. A course of physical therapy may include back and neck exercises to stabilize the vulnerable areas of the spine, as well as other treatments designed to alleviate muscle spasms. Some supportive treatments to physical therapy that treat associated muscular tension include heat, massage, and electrical stimulation.