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Understanding the problem

Facet joints are the structures that connect the spinal vertebrae to each other. A facet joint is like many other joints in the body — it has a cartilage lining that allows the bones to glide smoothly over each other and is surrounded by a protective capsule. The function of a facet joint is to provide stability, mobility and support to the spine. Each vertebra has two facet joints, one on each side.

Facet disease occurs when a facet joint degenerates. While this can take place at any level of the spine, it most commonly affects the lumbar (lower spine) region.

Some of the terms commonly used to in the diagnosis of facet problems include:

  • Facet arthritis
  • Facet joint syndrome
  • Facet disease
  • Facet hypertrophy
  • Degenerative facet joints

These terms all refer to essentially the same thing – osteoarthritis or degeneration of a facet joint.

Understanding who suffers

Facet disease may arise when the cartilage in a facet joint is worn down as a result of aging, injury or wear and tear. This type of spinal damage can be attributed to arthritis, work, overuse or an injury sustained in an accident. Another possible result of facet disease is spondylolisthesis, which occurs when a vertebra slips forward in relation to an adjacent vertebra, usually in the lumbar spine.

Potential Signs and Symptoms

Facet disease symptoms can range in severity from slight discomfort to debilitating pain. The inflammation of the facet joints alone may cause stiffness in the neck and back, aching and warmth surrounding the inflamed joint.

Additionally, the friction that occurs when the bones in the facet joints rub together may trigger the growth of bone spurs. In the event that a bone spur compresses a nerve root or the spinal cord, symptoms of radiculopathy and myelopathy can occur, which include:

  • Radiating pain
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of fine motor skills
Examinations Usually Required

Facet disease diagnosis is relatively easy to accomplish with a thorough physical exam or a diagnostic facet injection (a numbing medication injected into the facet joint). If the source of the pain is the facet joint, then the pain should resolve immediately after the injection. If the pain persists after an injection, it may be caused by spinal stenosis or a herniated/bulging disc, which require different treatments to address.

If necessary, physicians will also order an X-ray, CT scan or MRI to get a more comprehensive look at the spine

Proposing Treatment and Why AIMIS

Treatments can vary depending on the severity of your symptoms and how much they limit your everyday activities and your level of pain. Not all patients with pain from facet disease require surgery. For mild to moderate pain, more conservative treatment methods can include medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. More lasting relief of the facet joint problem can be obtained by destroying some of the tiny nerve endings serving the joints, through interventional ablation. In cases of severe and persistent problems, degeneration of the adjoining disc is nearly always present so the segment may require a bone fusion surgery to stop both the associated disc and facet joint problems or other type of surgery.

AIMIS provides various surgical options depending on an individual’s problem and include:

Minimally Invasive Fusion Surgery

Minimally Invasive Facet Thermal Ablations

Facet Joint Denervation

Bone Spur Removal

Why minimally invasive spine surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery was developed to treat spine problems with less injury to the muscles and other normal structures in the spine. It also assists the surgeon to see where the problem exists in the spine. Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS), does not involve a long incision as is open surgery which helps to avoid damage to the muscles surrounding the spine. In most cases, this results in less pain after surgery and a significant faster recovery.

Spine surgery is normally recommended once a period of nonsurgical treatment likely including medications and physical therapy has not provided pain relief caused by the back problem. Surgery is considered when the source of your pain and underlying cause can be identified and surgical procedure proposed. Minimally invasive techniques today are common and being used for a wide range of spine procedures.

Benefits of minimal invasive spine surgery include:

  • Small incisions
  • Less pain. Often less pain than open procedures because less of the natural anatomy is disrupted
  • Shorter Hospital stay
  • Quicker return to daily activities
  • Lower infection and complication rate
  • Less blood loss. Smaller incisions also mean less blood loss, which can ultimately improve outcomes.

Minimally invasive procedures take a surgery that could be a dramatic event and makes it have less of an impact!

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Reputable and Prestigious Surgeons

AIMIS' skilled team of neurosurgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and ancillary professionals has one of the leading experiences in the world for minimally invasive spine surgery. Our full team are consulted with each case to find the most suitable experienced doctor for the patient’s exact issue, to ensure the maximum potential outcome of treatment

Getting More Information Before Moving Forward
You may have questions like:
  • Can I get more information before I commit to this?
  • Can I get a second opinion from you before I commit to this?
  • How can I find out the cost before I have any obligation?
What AIMIS Can do:

AIMIS will provide a full review, diagnosis and potential surgical options for your condition, after receiving the relevant examinations and information from you. They will also provide an estimate for your surgical procedure before you decide. AIMIS’s mission is to the provision of “true” healthcare for those who require it. It provides world leading surgeons using state of the art procedures to optimize potential surgical outcomes, whilst taking care of all arrangements so as to allow concentration on recovery.


AIMIS provide competitive prices for state of the art procedures. We also work with a large range of Insurance companies where your policy allows you to have surgery abroad.

Further information on the problem:

Facet disease in the back is a common form of osteoarthritis, or arthritis of the spine, that develops with the natural wear and tear of the spine. This condition is most common in the lumbar region of the spine (the lower back), but it can occur between any vertebrae in the spinal column. Facet disease is the swelling and inflammation of the facet joints in the spine. These joints allow the vertebrae of the spine to bend. When they swell from arthritis and other facet disease causes, movement in the vertebrae is limited and painful. In some cases, the facet joints may even swell and press against a nearby nerve, resulting in chronic pain and limited mobility.

Facet disease of the neck occurs when the cartilaginous lining of the joints in the cervical region of the spine begin to deteriorate. The condition is most commonly caused by the natural aging process, as years of supporting the weight of the head and providing movement can eventually begin to take a toll. In its early stages, facet disease of the neck causes pain, inflammation and stiffness, especially first thing in the morning and after long periods of rest. In an effort to prevent bone-on-bone contact, which arises because of the lack of lubrication on the damaged joints, the body sometimes develops bone spurs. Patients with spinal bone spurs may face additional symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling and/or muscle weakness in the neck, upper back, shoulders and/or arms. These symptoms usually arise when a bone spur has “pinched,” or compressed, a spinal nerve, nerve root or the spinal cord itself.

Further Information on Increased Risk Groups

There are a number of risk factors that can cause the development of facet disease. Causes such as the natural aging process and genetics are unavoidable, but there are certain lifestyle factors that may increase the risk of developing facet disease. Such risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Using tobacco products
  • Abusing alcohol
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Participating in high-impact sports
  • Working in a physically demanding job that requires constant bending and/or lifting
Why AIMIS for this Surgery

AIMIS strives for excellence in delivering the best surgical outcomes, via the extensive expertise of its prestige surgeons, its technologies, its highly trained staff and superior facilities to provide an individualized and compassionate experience in a comfortable environment. All patients are treated with the individual care they deserve in an effort to provide the best chance of successful treatment.

Other Services Provided by AIMIS

In addition to its Innovative Healthcare, AIMIS provides seamless service along the way. From the start of your journey you'll know the best flights to take, where you'll be staying, what paperwork you will need. You will have a personal assistant assigned; from your pick up at the airport, to your accommodation, continuous assistance at your pre-consultation, through surgery and in your postsurgical care. Our Patients have said that they feel they have become "part of our family" and some even asked to stay a little longer! AIMIS is here to assist you in an all you requirements, allowing you to focus on your health and recovery.