Preventing Facet Disease: Proactive Steps for a Healthy Spine

Facet disease affects millions of people in the United States and is a major source of aches, pains and limited mobility. If you’ve heard of this condition and are concerned about it one day affecting you, you are not alone. Like other conditions, while there is no way to completely prevent facet disease, there are steps anyone can take to significantly lower the risk of it developing. 

This informative overview will help you better understand facet disease and take action to promote a healthier spine and decrease the risk and severity of facet disease. 


Facet Disease Explained

Doctors typically define facet disease as a chronic condition where inflammation and degeneration of the facet joints in the spine cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. Like other joints, the spinal facet joints have a coating of cartilage and joint fluid that helps to reduce friction and enable smooth movement. Anything that disrupts the function of joint cartilage and fluid in the facet joints can cause the development of facet disease through increased friction and inflammation. 

The most common contributor to facet disease is osteoarthritis of the spine. As cartilage dries and breaks down, it can cause increased bone-on-bone contact. The resulting inflammation, pain and stiffness cause the debilitating symptoms associated with facet disease. Other causes and contributors can include stress from frequent injuries and autoimmune conditions. 


Can Facet Disease Be Prevented?

Facet disease is a non reversible condition without a cure, but it is highly treatable. Because facet disease is largely caused by natural age-related degeneration, there is no way to completely prevent it from developing. The same goes for cases of facet disease related to post-injury trauma or autoimmune diseases. 

However, there are steps to limiting the risk factors associated with facet disease. In addition to age and genetics, which can’t be controlled, controllable risk factors for facet disease include weight, diet, tobacco use, activity level and posture. By understanding these risk factors and taking steps to counteract them, it is possible to substantially lower your risk of facet disease. 


Five Proactive Steps Anyone Can Take to Decrease Their Risk of Facet Disease

Everyone is different and no two plans for preventing and reducing the risk of facet disease will be the same. It is important to work with your doctor or pain management specialist to develop a plan that is right for you. Common steps for practicing a spine healthy lifestyle that lowers the risk of facet disease include: 


1. Staying Active and Keeping a Strong Body 

A sedentary lifestyle is strongly associated with spinal degeneration and facet disease. This is because the reduced cardiovascular health and muscle atrophy associated with being inactive can have negative effects on spinal tissue. The decreased blood flow of nutrients to the joints and discs in the spine combined with lack of support from surrounding muscles can speed up degeneration. 

When it comes to exercise, a little goes a long way. Even walking for 10 to 20 minutes every day can have a positive impact. Other spine healthy exercises include gentle stretching, planking and Pilates, but always check with your doctor for exercises that are right for you. 


2. Reducing Stress on Your Spinal Joints 

The spine is designed to withstand tremendous pressure while allowing for the flexibility and mobility needed to bend and flex, but there are still limits. Constantly placing stress on the spine, whether through high-impact exercise, poor posture or carrying extra body weight, can add up over the years. Take steps to reduce stress on the joints by avoiding activities that can potentially injure the spine, practicing good posture and maintaining a healthy weight. 


3. Eating a Healthy, Anti-Inflammatory Diet 

Inflammation is a major source of facet disease, and many people are not aware of how much food plays a role in the inflammatory process. Eating a diet high in saturated fats, processed grains, and refined sugar can all increase inflammatory markers in the body, also increasing the risk of facet disease or making symptoms more severe. To counteract inflammation, eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in leafy greens, berries, unsaturated fats, whole grains and Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon. 


4. Avoiding Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices

Tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are major risk factors for facet disease. Tobacco use, particularly smoking, can hurt cardiovascular health and decrease blood flow along with all the other negative health effects associated with it. Alcohol use can cause dehydration, organ damage and diminished blood flow. Anyone looking to cease or limit usage of either substance should work with their doctor or a behavioral health professional to develop an effective strategy. 


5. Working Closely with Doctors and Treatment Professionals

Along with the above, patients should always see their doctors for check ups and physical examinations on a regular basis. Identifying spine conditions or facet disease as early as possible can prevent them from becoming more severe down the road. Very often, basic conservative pain management treatments, including over-the-counter medication, anti-inflammatory injections, and hot and cold compression, can help effectively manage symptoms along with practicing a spine healthy lifestyle. The key is to be proactive and collaborative with your treatment team and commit to any treatment recommendations and lifestyle changes.  


Reach Out to the Caring Team at PPOA Today 

No matter where you are in your pain relief journey, from prevention to treatment, Physician Partners of America (PPOA) can help. We can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan, including interventional pain management, that is right for your spine-healthy lifestyle and wellness goals. 

Contact us today to learn more or schedule your appointment.