Facebook Pixel

Facet Joint Pain

What Is Facet Joint Pain?

facet joint painFacet Joint Pain is a term that describes the part of the spine that is causing the pain. Each bone of the spine (vertebra) is a complex structure that includes a cylindrical-type ‘body’ and facets, which stick out like fingers from the ‘body’. The facets from neighboring vertabrae work together to create joints that allow us to bend and twist. Back pain may be called facet joint pain when the source of the pain is rubbing or irritation of these facet joints.

Causes of Facet Joint Pain

When the bones in the facet joint rub against one another they can cause pain, inflammation, and potentially bone spurs. This facet joint irritation is one cause of osteoarthritis.

But, there are several reasons the these joints can become irritated.

Disc Degeneration

Inter-vertebral discs are gel-like sacs that separate the bones of our spine. They act like shock absorbers and prevent vertebrae from rubbing together as we move. However, these discs become dehydrated and more brittle as we age. As a result, they offer less protection and, in some cases, fail to prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other as we move.  (Read more about degenerative disc disease.)

Bone Fracture or Dislocation

The facets are bones, and have the potential to be broken or dislocated. This can lead to dysfunction in the joint and facet joint pain.


Spondylolisthesis is when adjacent vertebrae are misaligned. Typically, this occurs when one vertebra ‘slips’ out of position. This slippage could be caused by a congenital condition, malformation of the vertebrae, degenerative discs, or physical trauma.

Synovial Cyst

Synovial fluid is a lubricating substance found within movable joints. When a cyst (fluid-filled) sac forms within the synovial fluid of a facet joint it can cause irritation or pressure on nerves.

Treatments for Facet Joint Pain

The first course of treatment for facet joint pain often includes anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapies (including stretches and/or exercise), hot/cold therapy, and using braces or aids to help support the spine.

Some find the use a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve simulator) machine helpful in reducing their pain.

For persistent facet joint pain, your doctor may recommend a facet joint injection. With this treatment, medication is delivered directly into the affected joint through an injection.



  • Low Back Pain – OrthoInfo – AAOS
*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery