Facet Joint Arthritis – What You Should Know
Our spine is made up of moveable bones known as vertebrae. Vertebrae are stacked on top of each
other to form the spine. Each vertebra has a three-joint complex where a large disc is present in the
front and there are two facet joints at the back. This anatomy of the spine ensures a strong link between
the bones while allowing smooth movement bending and twisting movement of the spine.
Now, if we specifically talk about the facet joints, then they are synovial joints having a lining of
These joints are known to move when the spine moves and prevent its over-twisting.
Sometimes, disease or any other condition affects this joint, and with time, the situation becomes
worse, especially if timely diagnosis and treatment are not provided. Severe cases of this condition
require joint fusion surgery where different types of Orthopedic Implants are required. Let us dive deep
into the condition.
What is Facet Joint Arthritis?
Also known as facet joint syndrome, facet joint arthritis is a condition characterized by pain in one or
more facet joints. This occurs due to uneven shifting of the weight on the facet joint. Such a condition
results due to degenerative changes in the spine.
The extra weight on the joints causes wear & tear along with the breakdown of cartilages, thinning of
the joint capsule, and/or formation of bone spurs. Besides all this, inflammation and irritation in the
facet joints are also noticed.
What Are the Symptoms Associated with Facet Joint Arthritis?
Studies have found that this condition remains painless until an incident triggers that. If pain is
experienced, it will be a dull ache that is noticed directly over the spine and may radiate to the buttocks.
In some cases, the pain can also be felt in the neck, shoulders, and back of the skull.
People suffering from this condition will experience pain while making bending and twisting
movements. Besides this, standing for long periods and inactivity may worsen the pain.
What Are the Causes of Facet Joint Arthritis?
Age-related wear & tear of cartilages is the commonest cause of facet joint arthritis. A traumatic injury is
also the cause of this condition. Some of the other causes of arthritis that affects the facet joint include:
✔ Repetitive movements
✔ Spinal conditions
✔ Poor body posture
Facet joint syndrome affects both men and women and the age group that is more prone is 40 to 70
years. Besides this, people who are prone to arthritis may also develop it in the facet joint. Above all,
spinal injury also makes people prone to developing this condition.
How is the Condition Diagnosed?
The similarity of the facet joint syndrome to other spine conditions makes correct diagnosis important to
provide the right diagnosis.
The diagnosis involves a medical history check and a physical examination. At first, the history of any
injury will be examined along with the painful areas around the spine. After this, the healthcare service
provider will also examine whether the patient is experiencing pain/or other issues while standing
Manipulation is also done by asking the patient to make certain movements in different positions to
check at which position the person is experiencing pain.
Imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans, or MRIs are also ordered to confirm the condition.
How Facet Joint Arthritis is Treated?
Certain lifestyle changes along with other treatment methods are required to be made to improve the
symptoms associated with facet joint arthritis.
At the personal level, the affected person must use the correct posture and maintain the right alignment
of the spine. Besides this, the person must check his/her posture while sleeping, standing, sitting, and
even walking. If the cause is obesity, losing weight might be of great help.
Apart from this, targeted physical therapy will help improve painful symptoms. Analgesics and anti-
inflammatory medicines will be prescribed to relieve pain & inflammation. Muscle relaxers are
suggested in the case of muscle spasms. In certain cases, the healthcare service provider may also apply a mechanical brace. If medicines cannot provide expected results, steroid joint injection will be applied.
If the condition becomes severe, joint fusion surgery will be recommended.
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