WHAT IS A SYNOVIAL CYST?
Synovial cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop in the facet joints of the lumbar spine or lower back. The synovium normally produces fluid to lubricate the joints. When age-related degeneration begins to affect the facet joints, the fluid can build up and create a cyst.
Although synovial cysts are benign, they can get large enough to protrude into the spinal canal, narrowing the space where nerves travel through the spine, a condition called spinal stenosis. When that happens, the cysts place pressure on the nerves.
WHAT SYMPTOMS DEVELOP DUE TO SYNOVIAL CYSTS?
Synovial cysts often don’t cause symptoms until they begin to press against your nerves, which is when you experience lower back pain that often radiates down your leg. Most patients find that their pain feels better when they sit down. This is because being seated widens the spinal canal in the lumbar area, which helps relieve the pressure.
In addition to pain, you may also develop numbness, tingling, or muscle weakness in one or both legs. Muscle weakness can cause a problem called foot drop. With foot drop, you have a hard time lifting the front of your foot, which can make the foot drag on the ground when you walk.
HOW ARE SYNOVIAL CYSTS DIAGNOSED AND REMOVED?
Synovial cysts are diagnosed and evaluated using an MRI. Your doctor at Spinetech may also take X-rays to assess the degree of degeneration in the facet joints and to rule out other spinal conditions that may be present.
When your symptoms are mild, your treatment begins with conservative measures like modifying your activities and physical therapy. As your pain worsens, your doctor at Spinetech may recommend interventional pain management techniques such as facet joint or epidural steroid injections to relieve your pain.
When your pain is chronic and severe enough to affect your daily activities, it’s time to consider removing the cyst. Synovial cyst removal is performed using minimally invasive surgery, which means less postoperative pain and a quick recovery.
Depending on the size of the cysts and the degenerative damage to the bone, your doctor may also recommend spinal fusion to stabilize your spine after removing the cyst.
To learn whether your lower back pain is caused by synovial cysts, call Spinetech or use the online booking feature to schedule an appointment.