People who suffer from facet syndrome may experience pain in their necks, mid-back or lower back regions. Initially, the pain may be episodic, but over time, its frequency, duration and intensity may increase. For some patients, the source of this pain is their facet joints, which are among the most common causes of pain in the lumbar region. People who have this condition may treat it with spinal fusion surgeries or cortisone injections. Fortunately, there are nonsurgical alternatives, including regenerative medicine, that may be successfully used to help to reduce the pain and to improve the patient’s functional ability.
What is facet syndrome?
Between each vertebra in your vertebral column, there is a facet joint. These joints function to provide your spine with the flexibility and stability it needs so that you can twist, sit, bend, walk and run. The surfaces of your facet joints are covered with cartilage so that they can easily glide over each other. There are multiple causes of facet syndrome, which is the pain condition that results from damage to your facet joints. The condition can be caused when a facet joint is damaged in an injury, because of excessive weight gains, while playing sports or because of degenerative conditions such as arthritis. When an injury or condition causes the joint’s cartilage to deteriorate, friction between the bones can occur. This can lead to pain, swelling, tenderness and stiffness. Because your surrounding muscles will work harder in order to try to protect the damaged area, they will also become stiff and tense.
What are the symptoms?
Facet joint syndrome can have multiple symptoms, including the following:
- Pain that worsens at night or in the mornings
- Pain that worsens with weather changes
- Sounds of bones grating on each other while moving
- Neck pain radiating into your head or shoulders
- Headaches that occur at the base of the skull or behind the eyes
- Having abnormal curvatures of your spine
How regenerative therapies may help
As a medical branch, regenerative medicine is a field that focuses on aiding the body’s ability to regenerate new, healthy tissues. There are a number of different regenerative therapies that may facilitate tissue regeneration, including injections of platelet-rich plasma and stem cell therapies. Stem cell therapy involves aspirating tissue from the bone marrow in your hip or from your fat cells because the messenger stem cells are found there. These undifferentiated cells have the ability to turn into specialized cells that can then form new bone, fat or cartilage tissue.
Platelet-rich plasma injections involve injecting plasma with concentrated levels of platelets into the space that surrounds the deteriorated joint. This helps to speed the healing process while attracting stem cells to the location.
What to expect with stem cell therapies
During stem cell therapy, patients lie on their stomachs. A needle is used to pierce through the hip bone into the marrow, which is where the messenger stem cells are found. Before this happens, the area is numbed with a local anesthetic. The aspirated marrow is centrifuged, which separates out the stem cells from the other material. This concentrated stem cell solution is then injected into the damaged area, where it instigates the regeneration of healthy tissue and helps to restore function. The procedure is fairly painless and is completed in the office.
What to expect with PRP
The platelet-rich plasma process involves taking some of your own blood, which takes about 30 minutes. The blood is then centrifuged, separating the plasma and platelets from the red blood cells. The platelet-rich plasma is then injected into the area surrounding the damaged facet joint.
What to expect after stem cell therapy or PRP
Most people report gradual improvements in their functioning and decreasing levels of pain after one stem cell therapy treatment. Some people may need up to three treatments in a year, but no more than that number will be performed in a 12-month period. People who receive PRP often report experiencing improvements after receiving two injections. A number of injections may be spaced out over a period of several months.
Regenerative therapies may offer terrific alternatives to surgery for many people with deteriorated facet joints. Before undergoing surgery, you may want to consider regenerative medicine as an option for treating your condition.
To learn more about regenerative medicine at the Spine Institute Northwest, visit our website. Are you ready to schedule an appointment? Call one of our friendly patient advocates at (206) 496-0630.