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Facet joint syndrome — overview

Facet joint syndrome is another term for osteoarthritis of the spinal facet joints. This condition involves joint inflammation caused by the wearing away of protective cartilage. Although mainly caused by aging, other factors can contribute to facet joint syndrome, including poor posture, injury and carrying extra weight.

If your life is being affected by facet joint syndrome, learning about this condition can make you more engaged as a patient and able to take an active role in your treatment. Facet joint syndrome is not reversible, but treatment that can provide lasting relief from symptoms is possible. The following information can help you work more closely with your doctor to develop a treatment plan with the best chance of returning you to the life you deserve.

Symptoms of facet joint syndrome

As we age, the protective cartilage that coats the joints can become dry and brittle, causing it to wear away and expose the connecting bones to direct contact. This friction can cause the joints, such as the facet joints in the spine, to become swollen and inflamed, leading to the following conditions:

  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness and difficulty rotating or bending the neck or lower back
  • A deep, dull aching
  • Headaches

In addition to local pain and stiffness, it’s also possible for a swollen joint or a related bone spur to compress a spinal nerve, resulting in radiating symptoms like burning pain, cramping, numbness and muscle weakness in the extremities. Facet syndrome typically affects the more flexible areas of the spine, which include the cervical (upper) and lumbar (lower) regions. Cervical facet joint syndrome can cause patients to experience discomfort in the neck, shoulders and hands, while lumbar facet joint syndrome can produce symptoms in the lower back, hips, buttocks and thighs.


Patients diagnosed with facet syndrome can often find relief with the help of doctor-prescribed conservative treatments such as posture correction, physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication. A physician or spine specialist may recommend surgery for patients who don’t find necessary relief after several weeks or months of a conservative treatment plan.

While traditional open neck or back surgery presents several risks, such as failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) and infection, minimally invasive spine surgery at USA Spine Care is a safer and effective alternative.^ Our highly skilled team of surgeons is able to access the spine using a less than 1-inch incision, which helps to spare muscles and allow our procedures to be performed on an outpatient basis.

Contact USA Spine Care to learn more and receive a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.

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