An intervertebral joint, also called a facet joint, connects two vertebrae in the spine to allow the vertebrae to hinge. This allows the spine to bend and flex while remaining stable.
This joint is located between each set of vertebrae in the spine. In fact, there are two joints located in each segment. The upper joint is known as the superior joint, while the lower joint is known as the inferior joint. The joints are aligned so that each inferior joint fits into the superior joint of the vertebra directly below it. Both joints are connected by a small bridge known as the interarticularis.
Anatomy of the intervertebral joint
Both superior and inferior intervertebral joints are located at the rear, or posterior, side of the spine. They are covered with cartilage and surrounded by a connective tissue that produces a natural lubricant which allows them to move smoothly against each other.
Intervertebral joints are found in each of the three mobile sections of the spine. They can be classified as:
- Cervical intervertebral joints — these joints are located in the cervical (upper) region of the spine
- Thoracic intervertebral joints — these joints are located in the thoracic (middle) region of the spine
- Lumbar intervertebral joints — these joints are located in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine
Because of the mobility in the neck and lower back, the intervertebral joints in the cervical and lumbar sections undergo more wear than the joints within the thoracic spine.
What do the intervertebral joints do?
Intervertebral joints make it possible for the spine to move forward and backward. However, they have little influence on the spine’s ability to bend from side to side. The joints can also protect against potentially damaging motion, such as excessive rotation and flexion.
Because the intervertebral joints are responsible for allowing the spine to move, they are susceptible to natural deterioration over the years. As a result, osteoarthritis in the facet joints is fairly common in middle-aged and older adults. These conditions can cause inflammation within the damaged intervertebral joint, which is located near a series of nerve roots in the spinal canal. If one of these nerve roots becomes compressed from an inflamed joint, symptoms of pain and stiffness can develop.
Treatment for a damaged intervertebral joint
Patients diagnosed with spinal joint conditions can often find relief from a combination of conservative treatments such as pain medication and stretching, hot/cold therapy and physical therapy. Surgery may be recommended if weeks or months of nonsurgical treatment do not bring the relief required for regular activity.
At USA Spine Care, we provide minimally invasive spine surgery that can help address intervertebral joint disorders and other spine conditions on an outpatient basis. Our outpatient procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery, offering a lower complication rate and no lengthy recovery to our patients.
Contact our team today for a no-cost MRI review* to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.