The facet joints, or joints with “small faces” are found at every spinal level (except at the top level) and provide about 20% of the torsional (twisting) stability in the neck and low back. The vertebrae of the mid back are normally far less mobile and allow a small amount of forward/backward and some side bending, and very little twisting. Facet joints are in almost constant motion with the spine and quite commonly simply wear out or become degenerated in many patients. When facet joints become worn or torn the cartilage may become thin or disappear and there may be a reaction of the bone of the joint underneath producing overgrowth of bone spurs and an enlargement of the joints. The joint is then said to have arthritic (literally, joint inflammation-degeneration) changes, or osteoarthritis, that can produce considerable back pain on motion. This condition may also be referred to as “facet joint disease” or “facet joint syndrome.” A protective reflex arrangement arises when the facets are inflamed which causes the nearby muscles that parallel the spine to go into spasm. We therefore see inflamed facet joints causing poor posture of the back, along with powerful muscle spasm.
Dr. Liechty is a board-certified neurosurgeon specializing in minimally invasive surgical technique. He uses advanced anatomy-conserving technologies and many of the world’s most minimally invasive fusion techniques, allowing for complex procedures to be done through an incision as small 1.5 centimeters.