Spondylosis is a word that refers to degenerative osteoarthritis of the joints between the centers of the vertebrae and the nerve root openings between the vertebrae. If this type of osteoarthritis occurs in the facet joints, it is known as facet syndrome. Symptoms may include pain, numbness, sensory disturbances and muscle weakness if the development of the spondylosis is compressing nearby nerve roots. More serious symptoms include widespread weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, changes in normal walking patterns and loss of balance. Seek medical help immediately if these symptoms develop, as they may indicate compression of the spinal cord.
The doctor will perform a physical exam, collect a medical history and order imaging to confirm the level and severity of the stenosis. Possible treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), membrane stabilizing drugs, over-the-counter painkillers or, in some cases, opiate medications.
Caudal, transforaminal or interlaminar steroid injections may be ordered to manage pain in the limbs. Alternately, medial branch blocks or a medial branch radiofrequency may be ordered to treat facet pain. Depending on the location of the pain, a sacroiliac joint injection (SIJ injection) may be beneficial. For some, a spinal cord stimulator may be the patient’s best option for pain relief. If conservative treatment options do not provide significant relief or if the condition is severe, the doctor may recommend surgery.