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Facet Syndrome

Dr. Howard Liss treats disorders that cause pain and disability by providing consultative services and soft tissue and joint injections when needed. When medically appropriate, he makes specific referrals for diagnostic testing (lab work, imaging, electrodiagnosis), physical and occupational therapy, interventional procedures (epidurals and facet joint injections), and surgery.

As an umbrella term for pain stemming from the facet joints, facet syndrome is caused by a number of factors including trauma (whiplash), abnormal posture and degenerative conditions in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. While degenerative changes in the spine contribute the most to facet syndrome, any injury or condition that causes excess stress and strain on the facet joints can lead to facet syndrome.

To better understand, consider the complexity of the facet joints which function as a “tripod.” Each intervertebral segment of the spine contains two facet joints in the back and one larger disc in the front. Depending on where the facet joints are located (cervical, thoracic or lumbar), they are shaped differently to provide full range of motion for the spine. In addition, the facet joints provide support and stability. Yet, the combination of constant movement and increased loads on the facet joints may begin to cause pain, soreness and stiffness.

More commonly, individuals experience facet syndrome in the lumbar (low back) and cervical (neck, upper back and shoulders) region. Even without injury, the lumbar spine carries the everyday weight of motion and heavy forces. Depending on the location of the joint affected, pain can be felt directly over the joint, or it can manifest in the hips, buttocks, groin or back of the thighs. On the other hand, cervical facet joint pain results in pain at the base of the skull, shoulders, upper back or neck. Individuals often suffer from headaches, and they may complain of ringing in their ears. Though thoracic facet syndrome is less common, it’s important to understand that when pain is felt in other regions of the spine, it can cause rigidity at the midline or thoracic level. This may result in pain.

Non-surgical Treatment For Facet Syndrome

While back and neck pain continue to send many to their primary care physician, physiatrists take a panoramic view of an individual’s pain, considering multiple systems and the body as a whole. Thus, non-surgical treatment for facet syndrome is directed at alleviating pain and maximizing function and quality of life.

To reestablish function, physiatrists may employ a number of methods, including postural correction, massage therapy, anti-inflammatory medication or facet joint injections. In many cases, a combination of methods is used, incorporating several clinicians and interventionists, as directed by the physiatrist. Other treatment options include radiofrequency ablation, dry needling, physical therapy or exercise.

Whether treatment involves taking simple measures to adjust one’s lifestyle or a series of injections and medication management is applied, physiatrists maintain an emphasis on empowering patients to live a more pain-free, healthy life.

At the Howard Liss, M.D. Rehabilitation Institute, patients can rely on Dr. Liss to put together the right treatment, therapy and rehabilitation plan to ensure the most optimal outcome. Dr. Liss works closely with other specialists required to rehabilitate patients suffering from chronic pain or serious injuries, and Dr. Liss will refer patients as needed to ensure appropriate treatment. With extensive education and exposure to a variety of conditions that affect the cervical and lumbar spine, bones, nerves, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, brain, and spinal cord, Dr. Liss is uniquely positioned to help patients manage their pain and maximize their functioning.Patients trust Dr. Howard Liss for effective management and minimally-invasive treatment of their neck and back pain. 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Liss, contact the Howard Liss, M.D. Rehabilitation Institute in Englewood today.


Rehabilitation Institute

111 Dean Drive Suite 1
Tenafly, NJ, 07670
Fax: (201) 871-2214

Call Us: (201) 390-9200