Facet joint pain-advances in patient selection and treatment

Steven P. Cohen, Julie H. Julie, Chad Brummett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Facetogenic pain, also known as zygapophysial joint pain, is a frequent cause of mechanical spine pain. Diagnostic blocks (for example, medial branch blocks [MBBs]) are the only reliable approach to identify facet joints as the source of neck or back pain. In the absence of a reference standard, MBBs actually serve more of a prognostic than diagnostic role, enabling the selection of patients who might respond to radiofrequency denervation treatment the standard treatment for facet joint pain. Using double blocks reduces the false-positive rate of MBBs, but will invariably reduce the overall treatment success rate. No studies have evaluated non-interventional treatments for confirmed facetogenic pain, but data from studies in non-specific back pain suggest a modest, short-term beneficial effect for pharmacotherapy and some nontraditional treatments. Trials of intra-articular steroid injections for lumbar and cervical facet joint pain have yielded disappointing results, but evidence suggests that a subpopulation of patients with acute inflammation derive intermediate-term benefit from this therapy. Radiofrequency denervation provides some benefit for up to a year in approximately 60% of individuals. Increasing this success rate might involve enhancing diagnostic specificity and phenotyping, as well as techniques that increase the likelihood of successful nerve ablation, such as maximizing lesion size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalNature Reviews Rheumatology
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology

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