facet joint

Facet joint syndrome

The facet joints are small joints on both sides of the vertebrae. These joints interlock with the vertebrae above and below. When you bend in different directions, especially backwards (extension) the joints move. If the joints become irritated from an injury or arthritis, the condition is called facet syndrome and will cause back pain.


Neck, low back, and mid back joint pain

You have facet joints throughout your spine so the following information is applicable to your neck, low back and mid back. 

The pain is usually on one side or the other because the joint inflammation is either on the left or right side. Because the joints are close to the center of your back, the pain is close to the middle but is usually a little more to the left or right.  The joints will approximate or get closer when you bend backwards so this will generate pain. When you bend forward or flex the joint opens so this generally will relieve pain. Facet joint syndrome will not radiate down the leg like a sciatic nerve pinch. 

Treatment of facet joint syndrome should start conservatively. Manual manipulation with chiropractic adjustments is the most effective treatment.  Physical therapy such as electrical muscle stimulation and exercise therapy are also helpful. Often patients with back pain or neck pain will become sedentary. Light movement will help any type of back pain so keep moving even if you are having a lot of pain. Ice is also better than heat. Ice will reduce swelling and inflammation so apply ice for about 20 minutes. Take the ice off the facet joint for at least 20 minutes. Ice three to four times daily.

Because following the above treatment will help most patients, further treatment is usually not necessary. However,  if conservative treatment is not effective, other options are available.

If you think your back pain is coming from facet joint syndrome give our office a call. See our home page for new patient discounts.