About Thoracic Facet Joint Arthritis
Facet joints are the small joints that line our spine that allow us to twist, bend, flex forward and extend backward. When facet joints become inflamed or arthritic, they can cause pain and limit activity. Thoracic facet syndrome is usually a degenerative condition that can worsen if left untreated. While not as common as facet disease in the more flexible cervical (neck) and/or lumbar (lower back) spine, the joints in the thoracic spine can deteriorate as a result of regular wear and tear as well. Irritation and degradation of the facet joints represent a type of osteoarthritis that usually develops gradually over time. Eventually, the articular cartilage on the facet joint wears away, leading to bone-on-bone contact and inflammation. Inflammation promotes the development of osteophytes, and arthritic pain.
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Symptoms of Thoracic Facet Joint Arthritis
Pain from thoracic facet joint arthritis can present as deep achy mid-back pain. The pain is generally worse with twisting, bending, and extension maneuvers. Patients sometimes also endorse pain that is deep and between their shoulder blades with radiation down the mid-back.
Treatment for Thoracic Facet Joint Arthritis
Thoracic facet joint arthritis may result in chronic mid-back pain. Each patient with facet arthritis may have different contributing issues, requiring a personalized treatment plan to obtain relief. Our spine specialists at Ospina Medical, offer a variety of interventional and regenerative medicine treatments that can manage pain, improve function and slow the progression of disease.
Procedural treatment for thoracic facet joint syndrome can include thoracic intra-articular facet joint injections with steroid or cortisone as well as injections that block the medial branch nerves that relay pain information between the facet joint and the brain. Thoracic medial branch blocks oftentimes are used as diagnostic blocks to help determine the source of mid-back pain. If you have positive thoracic medial branch blocks (ie, your pain improves after receiving them), you may be a good candidate for thoracic radiofrequency procedures. These procedures allow for a long term solution for those who suffer from pain from thoracic facet arthritis.
Additionally, regenerative injections, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, platelet lysate, and bone marrow concentrate containing stem cells are also being used experimentally to provide a healthier environment to promote healing in the thoracic facet joint. Our regenerative medicine experts at Ospina Medical, utilize Regenexx treatments to not just improve pain, but help heal and stabilize the thoracic spine and thoracic facet joints. Thoracic facet joint arthritis often accompanies other degenerative conditions of the spine, including thoracic herniated discs, thoracic stenosis, and thoracic degenerative disc disease. By treating the entirety of the damaged spinal segment, our providers are able to address multiple pain generators of the spine that can sometimes be overlooked when only specific structures are treated.
If you are interested to learn more about Regenexx and whether you qualify for treatment, please reach out to Ospina Medical, located in Midtown Manhattan in New York City to speak with one of our Regenexx providers today.
Thoracic Facet Arthritis FAQs
What are symptoms that I have thoracic facet arthritis?
Symptoms for thoracic facet arthritis can vary, depending on how progressed your arthritis may be and the underlying cause of arthritis. Some signs to look for include back spasms or twitching, stiffness and lowered range of motion, or pain radiating into your arms. In your consultation with your provider at Ospina Medical, we will review any additional symptoms you may have and determine if thoracic facet arthritis might be causing your symptoms.
Can my facet joint arthritis be fixed?
Unfortunately, arthritis cannot be reversed. However, its progression can be slowed, and symptoms can be managed. We can decide on the best plan of treatment, which may include any combination of rest, anti-inflammatory tactics, and ice for flare-ups.
How serious is thoracic facet arthritis?
As we age, degenerative thoracic facet arthritis can create weakness and pain in your spine. The cartilage between joints tends to weaken, and as a result, joints carry more pressure. In patients with unmanaged thoracic facet arthritis, you may notice these symptoms earlier than needed.