Facet Joint Inflammation Pain

February 15, 2015 | Conditions
facet joint inflammation pain

Facet Joints (Z-joints) are synovial joints found on both sides of the back of the spine. The purpose of the Facet Joint is to guide and limit the motion of the spine. When working properly, they allow flexibility in your back while keeping you from overextending or overflexing the joints in your spine. When you bend or twist, Facet Joints control that motion.

Facet Joints are classified into three sections — cervical, thoracic and lumbar— correlating with three areas of your spine. Over time, wear and tear, arthritis or injury can take a toll, damaging the joints and causing inflammation and, often, debilitating lower back pain.


Inflammation or injury to the Facet Joints is one of the most common causes of neck pain or back pain. In fact, Facet Joint Pain, also known as Facet Joint Syndrome or Facet Joint Sprain, accounts for about 30 percent of all reported cases of back pain. Many of these cases are caused by Osteoarthritis.

When the cartilage in Facet Joints wears down, the bone underneath may produce bone spurs, causing the joints to rub and scrape. The resulting inflammation is known as Facet Joint Syndrome or Facet Joint Disease.

When left untreated, inflammation in the Facet Joint can trigger spasms in the muscles parallel to the spine. This can cause the spine to bend or “crook,” affecting the patient’s posture as well as the overall health of the back and spine.

Symptoms of Facet Joint Issues

  • Acute pain in specific areas of your neck or back. The pain is generally intermittent, regularly occurring several times each month.
  • Loss of flexibility at the joint as well as pain when leaning forward or backward.
  • Consistent tenderness at the joint.
  • Facet Joint problems in the cervical region can radiate pain into the shoulders and upper back.
  • Facet Joint problems in the lumbar region are often accompanied by radiating pain to the buttocks and down the back of the leg.

Due to the pain coming and going without any warning or regularity, many patients tend to dismiss Facet Joint Pain, believing it’s “just a backache” or it’s “all in my head.” This is troubling, because the underlying causes of Facet Joint Pain can be progressive. The longer you wait to begin treatment, the more extensive the damage to the joint can become.

Medial Branch Nerves

When Facet Joints become inflamed, Medial Nerves carry pain signals from the spine to the brain. Medical conditions such as Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis and traumatic injury exacerbate this inflammation, causing more pain signals to be sent.

Medial-Branch-NervesMedial Nerves are found in each section of the spine.

  • Cervical Medial Branch Nerves are found in the neck
  • Thoracic Medial Branch Nerves are found crossing over a bone in the mid or upper back
  • Lumbosacral Medial Branch Nerves are located in a bony groove in the lower back

Lumbosacral Medial Nerve pain plays a part in up to 45 percent of diagnosis related to lower back pain. The percentage is even higher with patients complaining of neck pain. More than two out of three patients suffering from cervical spine pain have inflamed Facet Joints.

Here’s the Good News…

While Medial Branch Nerves are often associated with significant pain, they do not control any major muscles, and they don’t carry any sensation to or from the extremities. The loss of these nerves has not been shown to be harmful. This means pain in the Facet Joints can be alleviated using a Medial Branch Block.

Diagnosing and Treating Facet Joint Injury

Dr. Skaliy will begin with a physical examination. If necessary, he may conduct additional medical imaging tests, including an X-ray, MRI or CT scan. Once a positive diagnosis is made, Dr. Skaliy will discuss potential treatment options.

In the early stages, Facet Joint Pain can often be treated through physician guided exercise or a physical therapy regimen. Patients may also relieve some of the pain through practicing good posture.

If these treatments are unsuccessful, Facet Joint Injections have proven effective in the treatment of Facet Joint Pain.

If your pain is related to other spinal conditions, you may also be a candidate for Stem Cell Therapy. To learn more about Facet Joint Syndrome and other causes of lower back pain, fill out the form below to schedule your appointment with Dr. Skaliy today.

About the Author

Dr. Michael Skaliy

Throughout his career Dr. Michael Skaliy has felt that medicine is a rapidly changing field and he’s continued to stay up to date to bring the latest cutting edge therapies into his practice. Most recently, he introduced stem cell therapy and minimally invasive same day spine surgery, which is done through a small device the size of a pencil.

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