Facet Syndrome

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Facet syndrome represents an irritation of the articular facets at the level of the spine. This progressive condition is often associated with a sensation of pain and generally affects the quantity and quality of movement possible.

The spine is made up of several vertebrae, intervertebral discs, ligaments, nerves and many muscles. The facet joints are small joints, covered with cartilage, that connect the vertebrae together.

Facet syndrome most often affects the lumbar or cervical region and usually happens as a result of structural changes that occur in the spine with age. Facet syndrome can be caused by inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis, or following a spinal trauma, such as a car accident or a fall.

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Structures involved

The cartilage that covers the f​acet joint​ and allows the vertebrae to move easily against each other is often involved in this condition.

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Signs & Symptoms that you may experience

Facet syndrome is multifactorial and symptoms can vary greatly from one person to another. The symptoms of facet syndrome vary depending on the region of the spine affected. At the cervical level, symptoms are generally felt at the base of the skull, neck, upper back and shoulders. At the lumbar level, symptoms are usually located in the lower back, hips, groin and behind the legs. Pain and stiffness are often present after periods of rest and are often exacerbated in the morning. Burning and tingling sensations may be felt in the area of the buttocks and legs.

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Developments

Your rehabilitation plan, health profile, fitness level and nutritional status affect the recovery time.​ I​ n most cases, you can expect a full recovery from facet syndrome. This condition can sometimes be associated with

osteoarthritis, which is a chronic condition that cannot be cured. An active lifestyle and a rehabilitation plan may however slow the progression of this condition and make it easier to manage the symptoms. As a general rule, it can take a few months before you can return to a functional level. In cases of long-standing facet syndrome, the pain may sometimes resurface with no real cause or identifiable false movement and then subside with a return to an active lifestyle.

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▶​ ​WHAT TO DO

Early Stage

Relative rest is a good way to protect your facet syndrome and prevent your condition from getting worse, but it is important to avoid over-protecting it. A few days of rest by reducing activities that cause pain may be necessary. A quick return to your daily activities, light cardiovascular exercises that do not cause pain and exercises to strengthen your lumbar and abdominal stabilizer muscles will allow for a better recovery.

Rehabilitation

Follow your therapist’s advice. This will help you manage the various stages of the healing process and increase the odds of successful rehabilitation. Your therapist will accompany you during your personalized rehabilitation program to regain your joint range of motion, your strength and muscular endurance of the spinal region involved and your functional state.

▶ ​WHAT TO AVOID

Do not rely solely on a passive treatment approach. Each phase of the rehabilitation process is important. Patients who actively participate in their treatment plan tend to recover more quickly. Remember that pain is not always a good indicator of tissue damage. As soon as you feel better and the pain is well under control, introduce, in collaboration with your therapist, cardiovascular and strength-building exercises based on your tolerance.

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