Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet Joint Syndrome

What is it?

There are two facet joints at the back of each vertebra that connect it to the vertebrae above and below it, allowing the spine to bend. Facet joint syndrome is pain in these joints.

Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Common causes of facet joint syndrome include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Injury
  • Pinched nerves
  • Infection

Facet joint syndrome typically occurs in the lower back and neck, which cause pain specific to those areas of the body. For example, facet joint syndrome in the lower back might cause leg pain, while that occurring in the neck could lead to headaches. In addition to pain, symptoms of facet syndrome include:

  • Aches
  • Stiffness
  • Limited movement

The risk of facet joint syndrome increases with age, and also affects people with poor posture more often.


A doctor will diagnose facet joint syndrome by performing a physical examination, reviewing symptoms and medical history, and conducting imaging test, such as X-rays, an MRI or CT scans. The doctor also might perform a facet joint block, during which an injection in the spine numbs the nerves to see if there is a decrease in pain.


Treatments for facet joint syndrome include:

  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication
  • Undergoing physical therapy
  • Modifying lifestyle and activities
If these treatments do not work, the doctor may recommend surgery to reduce pain and restore movement.

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