This condition is a deterioration of the facet joints, which help stabilize the spine and limit excessive motion. The facet joints are lined with cartilage and are surrounded by a lubricating capsule that enables the vertebrae to bend and twist.
Facet joint syndrome occurs when the facet joints
become stressed and damaged. This damage can
occur from everyday wear and tear, injury to the
back or neck or because of degeneration of an
The cartilage that covers the stressed facet joints
gradually wears away. The joints become swollen
and stiff. The vertebral bones rub directly against
each other, which can lead to the growth of bone
spurs along the edges of the facet joints.
Pain from facet joint syndrome differs depending on
which region of the spine is damaged. If the
cervical, or upper spine is affected, pain may be felt
in the neck, shoulders, and upper or middle back.
The person may also experience headaches.
If the lumbar, or lower spine, is affected pain may
be felt in the lower back, buttocks and back of the
Facet joint syndrome is first treated conservatively
with rest, ice, heat, anti-inflammatory medications,
and physical therapy. In addition, facet joint blocks
may be administered not only to diagnose facet
joint pain but also to treat it. If non-surgical methods
fail to relieve pain, a facet rhizotomy or bone fusion
may be performed.