Phone: 817-697-4038 Fax: 877-409-3962


If you suffer from chronic back pain, don’t hesitate to Schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists.

What is Facet Joint Arthritis?

In the back of the spine, the vertebrae connect to each other through a series of ridges known as the facet joints. Each facet joint connects to the vertebrae above. Additionally, below it lies a cushion of cartilage and a fluid-filled capsule that surrounds it.

Like all joints in the body, the facet joints can suffer from Osteoarthritis if he cartilage between the facet joints breaks down. Additionally, if the joints move without their protective cartilage, it can cause pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Facet Arthritis greatly contributes to cases of lower back pain (Lumbago), and severe damage or bone spurs near the nerve root can result in cauda equina syndrome.

Indication Of Facet Joint Arthritis

The main symptoms of facet joint arthritis include:

  1. Back Pain: The most common symptom is chronic, low back pain. The pain is typically localized to the area around the affected facet joints.
  2. Stiffness: The back may feel stiff, especially in the morning or after prolonged periods of inactivity. The stiffness often improves with movement.
  3. Limited Range of Motion: Decreased flexibility and reduced ability to twist, bend, or extend the spine fully.
  4. Radiating Pain: In some cases, facet joint arthritis can cause pain that radiates to the buttocks, hips, or thighs. This pain may mimic the symptoms of sciatica.
  5. Tenderness: The affected facet joints may be tender to the touch or palpation.
  6. Muscle Spasms: The muscles surrounding the affected facet joints may go into spasms, leading to additional pain and discomfort.

The diagnosis of facet joint arthritis typically involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and imaging studies. Some imaging studies include X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans. These tests help evaluate the condition of the facet joints and rule out other potential causes of back pain.

Treatments For Facet Joint Arthritis

Treatment options for facet joint arthritis aim to alleviate pain, improve function, and slow down the progression of the condition. They may include:

  1. Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or prescription medications to manage pain and reduce inflammation.
  2. Physical Therapy: Specific exercises and stretches to strengthen the muscles supporting the spine, improve flexibility, and promote proper posture and body mechanics.
  3. Heat or Cold Therapy: Applying heat packs or cold packs to the affected area can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  4. Steroid Injections: Corticosteroid injections into the affected facet joints can provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation and pain.
  5. Radiofrequency Ablation: A minimally invasive procedure that uses heat to disrupt the nerve signals responsible for transmitting pain from the affected facet joints.
  6. Assistive Devices: In some cases, the use of assistive devices such as braces or supports may help provide stability and reduce pain.
  7. Lifestyle Modifications: Maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular low-impact exercise, and practicing good posture can help manage symptoms of facet joint arthritis.

In severe cases that do not respond to conservative measures, surgical options such as facet joint denervation or spinal fusion may be considered.

It is important to consult with a healthcare professional, such as a primary care physician, orthopedic specialist, or physiatrist, for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan based on the specific details of your condition. They can guide you through the recommended interventions and help manage your facet joint arthritis effectively.

If you would like to speak to one of our Texas orthopedic spine specialists, give us a call at 817-697-4038, or contact us over the web. Telemedicine appointments are also available.