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The joints that connect the bones in your spine are referred to as the facet joints.  When these joints are healthy, they will support the movement, glide easily, and provide stability.  Aging, degeneration, and/or injuries can limit movement in these joints and lead to pain.  When this happens we refer to it as Facet Joint Syndrome. 

Each one of the facet joints is covered with cartilage. This cartilage allows for a smooth surface for bones to glide on.  Lining the facet joint is the synovium, which is a membrane that releases a liquid that acts as a lubricant between the bones and the joints; thereby, minimizing friction. 

Facet Joint Syndrome can occur at any point in the spine but is mainly seen in the lower aspects of the lower back and the neck.


Certain conditions such as arthritis, infection, injury, degenerative diseases, and nerve compression can cause Facet Joint Syndrome. Additionally, our body's natural aging process and everyday "wear-and-tear" can cause the cartilage to diminish. 


When Facet Joint Syndrome occurs in the cervical spine, symptoms may include: 

  • Neck and shoulder pain

  • Neck stiffness

  • Headaches

  • Impaired mobility 

  • Poor posture


When Facet Joint Syndrome occurs in the lumbar spine, symptoms may include:

  • Lower back pain

  • Lower back stiffness

  • Buttock pain

  • Impaired mobility

  • Poor posture

  • Difficulty standing




To diagnose Facet Joint Syndrome, your doctor may look for abnormalities via a physical examination, X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). To verify an abnormality, your doctor may want to do a facet joint injection, also known as Facet Blocks.  This will help your doctor determine the source of pain. 




Relief is often obtained through activity modification, medications, and physical therapy.  The key here is to stay active.  Medications may include over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxants, and steroids.  If these methods fail, a procedure called radio frequency ablations can be applied. This long-lasting pain management technique impairs a nerve's ability to send pain signals to the brain.  The pain is then suppressed in the area and will no longer be felt

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