The facet joints serve as the connections linking the bones within the spine. They play a crucial role in allowing nerve roots to pass through, enabling the transmission of signals from the spinal cord to various parts of the body, including the arms, legs, and other regions.

Moreover, these joints facilitate the bending and twisting motions of the spine while preventing excessive forward slippage or unrestricted twisting. Similar to the knee joint, they possess cartilage that enables smooth movement where two bones meet. The synovium lining and lubricating joint fluid further contribute to their functionality.

When these joints become inflamed due to injury or arthritis, they can lead to pain. In the case of a affected joint in the neck, it may cause headaches and limited head mobility. If the affected joint is located in the back, it can result in pain experienced in the lower back, buttocks, or thighs.


Individuals with facet joint syndrome often report having to rotate their entire body to look left or right. The associated pain and stiffness can make it challenging to maintain an upright posture or rise from a seated position. This may lead to a hunched walking gait. The specific symptoms vary depending on the location of the affected joint and the nerve roots affected.

In some cases, excessive swelling and enlargement of the facet joint can obstruct the openings through which the nerve roots pass, resulting in a pinched nerve. This condition is referred to as facet hypertrophy.


The diagnosis of facet joint syndrome is confirmed by administering an anesthetic and anti-inflammatory injection into the affected joint. If immediate pain relief is experienced following the injection, the condition is identified as facet joint syndrome.


Steroid injections into the facet joints can provide prolonged pain relief. Other conservative approaches include the use of anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy.

In more severe cases or for long-term relief, a rhizotomy procedure, which involves burning the anterior or posterior spinal nerve roots, may be performed. Surgical interventions could also be considered if conservative treatments fail to alleviate the pain.

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Source: cedars-sinai