Managing Facet Disease Symptoms with Conservative Treatments
Facet disease symptoms can usually bemanaged nonsurgically through a doctor-recommended treatment plan. In most cases, adoctor will suggest that a patient diagnosedwith facet disease begin a course ofconservative treatments. These methodsusually focus on relieving the symptoms thatarise as a result of facet disease, such as focalpain, inflammation, and stiffness in the neckand/or back, as well as radiculopathic (traveling)pain, muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness.
What are Conservative Treatments?Conservative treatments are nonsurgical therapies that are considered the gold-standard within the mainstream medical community. Most doctors treating apatient with facet disease symptoms will recommend some form of conservativetreatment, such as: • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – to reduce inflammation and relieve pain • Narcotic pain medication – to chemically alter the brain’s pain receptors to alleviate pain • Physical therapy – to encourage proper body mechanics and posture • Hot/cold therapy – to ease muscle tension and numb pain, respectively • Facet joint injections – to relieve painful facet joints with steroidal (anti- inflammatory) and anesthetic (numbing) medications • Gentle stretching – to lengthen muscles and loosen stiffened joints • Low-impact exercise – to strengthen core and other supportive spinal muscles
Alternative Forms of TherapySome patients choose to augment their doctor-prescribedtreatment regiment with alternative therapies, which are notonly surgery-free, but also drug-free. Although not consideredpart of modern Western medicine, holistic approaches havebeen used for thousands of years to relieve pain and enhancewellbeing. Common examples includeacupuncture, acupressure, yoga,massage, biofeedback, andchiropractic manipulation.If you are considering alternativetherapies, be sure to talk withyour doctor about safelyintegrating these into your existing treatment regimen.
What if Conservative Treatments Fail to Alleviate Symptoms?If a patient exhibiting facet disease symptoms does notfind meaningful relief from several weeks or months ofconservative and/or alternative treatment, a doctor mayrecommend surgery. Usually, all forms of nonsurgicaltreatment should be exhausted before a surgicalprocedure is suggested, so patients may benefit fromseeking the opinions of one or more additional doctorsto ensure that surgery is the only remaining treatmentoption, and also to explore the various surgicalapproaches available for their condition.
Types of Facet Disease SurgeryFacet disease surgery may be performed as an open back orneck operation, requiring general anesthesia, a largeincision, and muscle dissection. However, some patientswith facet disease may be eligible for an endoscopicprocedure, which requires only local anesthesia and deep IVsedation, a small incision about one inch in length, and nomuscle dissection.To learn more about managing the symptoms associatedwith facet disease, patients should speak with a familydoctor or spine specialist.