Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: April 30, 2020
Like a number of degenerative conditions, spinal hypertrophy is a condition that can result due to cumulative trauma, age, wear and tear, posture issues and natural tissue breakdown that can occur over the decades. Similar to a condition like arthritis, prevention is preferred to treatment, because you can’t always regain what’s been lost as a result of natural degeneration. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at spinal hypertrophy and how the condition can be prevented and treated.
What Is Facet Joint Hypertrophy?
The facet joints in your spine are a self-lubricating joint system that help facilitate the natural movement of your spine. However, over time these joints are exposed to stress, injury and normal physical activity, which can lead to breakdown of the joint and an inability to perform as efficiently as it once did. When this happens, wear and tear can erode the cushioning between the bony surfaces of the facet joint, which eventually leads to bone on bone contact during certain spinal movements.
This bony contact spurs the onset of inflammation in the area and can also stimulate new bone growth in the area. While new bone growth may sound like a good thing, it can flake off and become bone spurs, or the bone can become larger than the original bone it’s replacing. When this happens, you may begin to experience symptoms of facet joint hypertrophy.
When the facet joint becomes slightly larger as a result of new bone growth, the joint may encroach on or narrow the foramen, an opening where spinal nerves pass through. If these nerves bump into this new bone or become impinged, you’ll begin to notice symptoms like discomfort, shooting pain, numbness, weakness in the extremities or loss of natural range of motion.
Preventing and Treating Facet Joint Hypertrophy
There’s nothing that you can do to completely alleviate your risk of facet joint hypertrophy since natural degeneration is one of the root causes, but you can do a number of things to slow this degenerative process. Many of those things involve living a healthy lifestyle in order to take pressure off your spine. Factors that will slow the progression of facet joint degeneration include:
- Having good posture
- Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Avoiding smoking
- Getting regular exercise
- Strengthening your core to take pressure off your spine
For those of you in the beginning stages of facet joint degeneration, a more targeted approach through physical therapy may be necessary. PT and other targeted exercise routines have great success rates, but should they fail or your degeneration is severe, a surgical procedure to free the compressed nerve and remove part of the offending bone may be required.
For more information about facet joint hypertrophy, or for any issues with your spine, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and his skilled team today.