Facet Joint Syndrome

The facet joints are the lateral joints in the spine that connect the vertebrates together. They are lined with cartilage and help promote healthy movement of the spine. They can be damaged through normal aging or through a traumatic injury like whiplash, causing pain or facet joint syndrome.

How is facet joint syndrome diagnosed?

A practitioner knowledgeable in spinal disorders will take a history, do a physical exam and review imaging. The classic finding of facet syndrome is pain and tenderness over the facet joints with extension (bending backwards).

How is facet joint syndrome treated?

A conservative nonoperative approach is utilized. This can include physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and low back exercises. In addition, minimally invasive therapies such as injections for diagnosis and treatment may be used.

Intraarticular injections involving steroids help reduce pain and inflammation. Medial branch blocks use anesthetic agents on the nerves that arise from the facet joints. If the pain is relieved by these blocks, it is a good sign that a radiofrequency ablation may provide longer lasting relief. This is accomplished by heating the nerves of the facet joints. This can provide pain relief from six months to two years.