Facet syndrome is a progressive and painful disorder of the spine. While it is primarily a degenerative disorder, work-related duties can contribute to the syndrome and cause an increasing amount of pain (and eventually disability) for workers.
What is facet syndrome?
Facet joints are small joints that connect two adjacent vertebrae. There are two facet joints at each level of the spine, which gives the spinal column stability while still allowing for movement.
The cartilage on the joints can weaken and break down over time. This is known as facet joint syndrome, or facet disease. The condition continues to develop as the facet joints deteriorate, which causes a significant amount of back pain and discomfort.
Causes of Facet Disease
Facet syndrome is caused by wear and tear. This is often attributed to aging, but that’s not always the case. Injury and overuse can play a role, too.
Some of the other causes and contributing factors include:
- repetitive trauma overuse injuries (e.g., delivery personnel repeatedly bending and lifting, assembly line workers repetitively performing tasks with lumbar spine flexed);
- traumatic work accidents;
- obesity; and
- the presence of other spinal conditions such as spondylolisthesis.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Facet Joint Syndrome
It’s often hard to recognize the symptoms of facet joint syndrome – at least initially – because it can mimic other spinal disorders. Oftentimes, patients with facet disease also have other back conditions, making it difficult to diagnose and to distinguish one condition’s symptoms from the other.
Some of the symptoms doctors may look for include:
- radiating pain;
- weakness or numbness in extremities;
- tenderness and sensitivity in one area of the spine;
- stiffness and reduced flexibility; and
- difficulty bending, standing straight, and/or walking.
Because the facet joints are so pivotal to the body’s movement, when they become injured or worn, any type of large movement becomes difficult.
With facet joint syndrome, regular activities can become painful such as:
- sitting; and
Types of Available Treatments
Doctors treat facet joint syndrome in several ways. For serious and persistent cases, fusion surgery or facet rhizotomy may be recommended.
There are also numerous non-surgical treatment options such as:
- anti-inflammatory medication;
- pain medication;
- using hot or cold packs;
- back-specific exercises;
- physical therapy;
- cervical traction;
- back braces;
- strength training;
- posture corrections; and
- avoiding movements that worsen symptoms.
It’s important to seek diagnosis and treatment at the first indication that you may have a condition such as facet syndrome. Early and proper treatment is key to successful treatment and to preventing recurring back problems.
Plus, if you believe your facet disease is work-related, you’ll need to tell your supervisor immediately and begin documenting your care and treatments in order to file a workers’ comp claim for compensation.
The Consequences of Failing to Receive Treatment for Facet Syndrome
Facet joint problems can cause chronic pain and make it impossible to perform normal, beneficial daily activities, such as:
- exercising; and
- basic reaching and bending.
If the condition isn’t treated, patients may experience certain complications like arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Bone spurs may form, too. Chronic pain can accompany these complications, making the condition very troubling for sufferers.
If you recently injured your back on the job, it’s important to stay alert to any signs that you may be developing facet syndrome. If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor and make an appointment for a thorough medical examination:
- pain and stiffness in the neck or back;
- pain that worsens with movements such as bending or twisting;
- stiffness after staying in one position for a long period of time; or
- headaches and shoulder pain (for cervical facet syndrome).
The Difficulties Proving a Claim
If your condition is, in fact, related to your job, actually proving the claim can be quite complicated. Your employer’s insurance company might claim that the injury is degenerative and had nothing to do with work. Also, because the syndrome can mimic other problems, the insurance company or employer might argue that your symptoms are related to your other health issues or are psychosomatic.
If you’re having difficulty proving your workers’ comp claim, contact an attorney as soon as possible. With proper legal counsel, medical professionals’ testimonies, and adequate evidence, you should be able to effectively demonstrate the link between your injuries and your work duties.
Obtaining an Attorney Specializing in Work Injury Cases
If you suffer from work-related facet syndrome, call our office for a FREE legal consultation. We can help prove your claim and obtain the benefits to which you’re legally entitled. Contact Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines today at (888) 435-9886.