What are the Facet Joint?

The facet joints are structures in the spine that make the back flexible, and enable the back to bend and twist. Healthy facet joints have cartilage which allows the spinal vertebrae to move smoothly against each other. Each facet joint is lubricated with synovial fluid for additional protection against degeneration. When normal motion is interrupted disorders of the facet joints may develop. As a spine specialist, Dr. Ernest Braxton uses both conservative and surgical treatments to help return patients to the activities they love.

What Causes a Lumbar Facet Cyst?

One abnormality that may develop on the facet joint is a lumbar facet cyst. Degeneration of the joint facet can disrupt the protective outer layer of the joint structure known as the synovial fluid; this disruption may produce extra synovial fluid creating a sac-like protrusion from the joint known as a facet cyst.

How Do I Know if I Have a Cyst on my Spine?

Lumbar facet cysts can be asymptomatic. As the synovial fluid increases spinal stenosis may develop creating pressure on the spinal nerve. The lumbar facet cyst may cause:

  • Lower back pain

  • Tingling or numbness in the legs

  • Pain and cramping in the legs and feet

  • Pain that is relieved after sitting

How to Diagnose a Cyst on the Spine?

Dr. Braxton will collect family and patient history and perform a physical exam which includes stability testing. Diagnostic imaging including MRIs, X-rays or ultrasounds may also be used. If a cyst is found, further imaging may be needed to evaluate for other related degeneration of the spine.

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Can a Cyst be Treated without Surgery?

Non-surgical treatment is a viable option for lumbar facet cyst disorder. Dr. Braxton may recommend activity modification and avoiding certain body positions that aggravate the pain. Medications such as anti-inflammatories and pain relievers may also be recommended. A course of formal physical therapy can build muscle strength in the lumbar region and provide physical adaptations to avoid triggering lumbar pain. Steroid or anesthetic injection to the site for relief of pain may also be options.

How to Treat a Lumbar Facet Cyst?

Dr. Braxton will work closely with the patient during the conservative portion of the treatment. If improvements are not made or pain increases, he and the patient will decide if surgery is the next step. Dr. Braxton will use minimally invasive surgical techniques to remove the cyst and alleviate the stenosis that may have developed. Returning patients to their normal activities is the goal of Dr. Braxton’s advanced treatment plan.

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