Spinal Facet Fractures & Dislocations

Category: Spine Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: July 28, 2015

facet fracture

Fractures and dislocations of the spine typically occur after an injury to the back or neck and can be quite painful. In this article, we will discuss facet fractures and dislocations of the spine – their causes, symptoms, and various treatment options.

Facet Fracture vs. Facet Dislocation

A facet fracture occurs when one of the spinal vertebrae breaks. Facet dislocations happen when one or more vertebra moves out of its proper place in relation to the surrounding vertebrae in the spinal cord. Fractures and dislocations often occur simultaneously as the result of an injury.

Facet fractures and dislocations are most often caused by blunt force trauma such as that from an automobile accident, a sports injury, a slip and fall event, etc. Elderly patients, and those with degenerative spinal conditions are most susceptible to these injuries. There are various degrees of dislocation:

  • Subluxed facets. The mildest form of displacement.
  • Perched facets. The second most severe form of dislocation.
  • Locked facets. The most severe form of dislocation.

Signs & Symptoms of a Facet Fracture / Dislocation

There are numerous potential symptoms of a spinal facet fracture and/or dislocation. Here are a few of the most common signs:

  • Pain in the back, neck, or legs
  • Weakness and numbness in the arms or legs
  • Bowel & bladder control issues
  • Paralysis (in rare cases)

Some patients do not feel any symptoms at all – especially those with minor dislocations or compression fractures. Others will experience severe symptoms of pain and loss of feeling. In any case, if you recognize any signs of a fracture or dislocation, make an appointment with a spine specialist to diagnose the condition.

Treating Facet Fractures & Dislocations

Facet fractures can be treated with multiple approaches – both surgical and non-surgical. In emergency situations when the spinal nerves are in danger, surgery is usually necessary. In less extreme cases, non-surgical treatments can be utilized. If these conservative treatment methods fail, minimally invasive spine surgery to correct the dislocation is the next course of action.

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