Facet Joint Pain

Facet Joint Pain

Facet Joint Pain

Facet joints are the connections between vertebrae located in the back of the spine. The facets limit movement of the spine and provide stability. Like the knee joint, the facet joints are wrapped in ligaments, have cartilage, and contain synovial fluid. Similarly, facet joints are susceptible to traumatic ligament tears and wear and tear causing bone on bone arthritis pain.

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What are the symptoms?

Common presentation of symptoms include:

  • Pain with sitting
  • Pain with standing
  • Pain while lying on your stomach
  • Pain with arching or twisting your neck or back
  • Pain relieved with sitting and bending the neck or low back forward
  • Pain does not radiate into the arms or legs

Facet joint injury can be associated with pain and stiffness. The pain from an injured facet joint can be near the spine, but it can also refer to other locations. For example, pain from cervical (neck) facet joint injury may radiate toward the back of the head, ear, or shoulder. Pain from lumbar (low back) facet joint injury may radiate toward the buttock, hip, or thigh. The pain is often worse with movement or after a period of inactivity or sleep. 

No matter what type of pain you are experiencing or the frequency, if your spine pain is affecting your ability to carry out your daily activities. 

What are the causes?

Facet joint pain typically occurs from: arthritis or from traumatic injury like a motor vehicle accident. Arthritis may develop as a result of:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Scoliosis
  • Slipped vertebrae (Spondylolisthesis)
  • Spondylolysis (fracture)
  • Compression fracture
  • Skeletal irregularities


Determining the source of your spine pain will help determine the most appropriate personalized treatment plan. The Compass Pain and Spine can diagnose facet joint pain during a comprehensive history and physical examination. In addition, we may also request diagnostic tests such as an MRI or CT scan.

What are the causes?

Conservative care including physical therapy, massage, TENS units, acupuncture, chiropractic, Pilates and yoga are often recommended to focus on postural correction, stretching, and strengthening the abdominal and low back muscles. 

When conservative treatments fail, a facet joint injection or radiofrequency ablation may be recommended. In addition to these traditional treatments, newer treatments may be offered, including injection of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and/or stem cells.