Facet Joint Arthritis

What are facet joints?

The facet joints, also called zygapophysial joints, are found in pairs on the back of the spinal column between adjacent vertebrae. These joints connect the vertebrae, providing stability and enabling the spinal column to move and bend.
The joints have cartilage surfaces, which act as shock absorbers, and synovial fluid lubricates them, facilitating smooth movement. When these joints are inflamed or irritated, they can cause pain due to the presence of nerve endings.

What is facet arthritis?

Facet arthritis, or facet joint osteoarthritis, is a condition characterized by the degeneration of the cartilage and bone in the facet joints. This degeneration can cause inflammation and pain in the affected joints and can also lead to the development of bone spurs or growths. Facet arthritis commonly affects the lower back and neck and can cause symptoms such as stiffness, reduced range of motion, and localized pain.

What causes facet arthritis?

Facet arthritis is typically caused by joint wear and tear over time, although injury, obesity, and genetic factors can also play a role.

How does facet arthritis present?

Facet arthritis commonly causes stiffness and pain in the affected joints, usually in the neck or lower back. The pain may be described as a deep ache and can be worsened by specific movements or positions, like twisting or bending. The condition may also lead to reduced range of motion, muscle spasms, and tenderness in the surrounding area. In severe cases, the development of bone spurs or growths may cause further pain and discomfort. Additionally, facet arthritis may cause referred pain, which means that pain may be felt in other areas of the body, such as the buttocks or thighs, depending on the location of the affected joint.

How is facet arthritis managed?

The treatment of facet arthritis usually involves a combination of non-surgical and surgical options, depending on the duration and severity of the symptoms.
Non-surgical treatments may include physical therapy, pain medications and exercises to improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion.

In cases where non-surgical treatments are ineffective, facet joint injections to relieve pain and inflammation, radiofrequency ablation to numb the nerve endings causing pain, or spinal surgery (refractory cases) are performed.

Explore procedures for Facet Joint Arthritis:

Facet Joint Injections or Medial Bundle Branch Block: Injections to relieve pain and inflammation in the facet joints.

Explore related spinal condition:

Lumbar Canal Stenosis: Explore the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar region and its impact on nerve function.


Anatomy and pathology of facet joint