Facet Joint Syndrome

What is it? 

The adult human spine is made up of 33 bones, or vertebrae. Facet joints connect the vertebrae, and provide for the stability and flexibility of the spine. There are two facet joints between each pair of vertebrae, one on each side. Facet joints link each vertebra to those directly above and below it, and allow the vertebral bodies to rotate with respect to each other. Cartilage in the joints allows for smooth movement where vertebral bones meet, and each is lined with a thin membrane called the synovium, which produces synovial fluid for lubrication.

Sometimes, facet joints may become inflamed, irritated or swollen, causing pain and other uncomfortable symptoms due to the impingement, or “pinching” of the nerves that serve the facet joint. This is called facet joint syndrome.

Potential causes of the condition include inflammation, infection and degeneration of the vertebrae and the discs that cushion and protect them due to aging, trauma and/or poor posture.

How is it treated?

Facet joint syndrome may be treated with a combination of non-surgical therapies designed to relieve both the inflammation and resulting symptoms, including

  • Posture correction
  • Activity modification
  • Exercise/physical therapy
  • Medication Facet joint block 

If conservative treatment fails to provide lasting relief, your doctor may recommend spine surgery. Surgical therapies for treating facet joint syndrome include: 

  • Laminectomy
  • Spinal fusion