Facet Joint Pain

Facet joint syndrome refers to pain that originates in the facet joints. This syndrome most often affects the lower back and neck. Lumbar facet syndrome might cause referred pain to the buttocks and thigh. Facet syndrome in the neck might cause headaches or shoulder pain.

What are the symptoms of facet joint syndrome?

Symptoms of facet joint syndrome in the lower back include:

  • Pain or tenderness in the lower back or neck.
  • Pain that increases with twisting or arching the body or neck.
  • Pain that moves to the buttocks or the back of the thighs—this pain is usually a deep, dull ache.
  • Stiffness or difficulty with certain movements, such as standing up straight or getting up out of a chair.

Symptoms of facet joint syndrome in the neck include:

  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Difficulty Rotating the Head

What causes facet joint syndrome?

There are several possible causes of pain that originates in a facet joint. An injury and/or changes associated with aging might cause the cartilage cushion that covers the bones to wear away, causing pain as the bones of the joint rub together. In addition, small nerves that branch out from the spinal nerves supply the facet joints. Irritation or pinching of these nerves also can lead to pain. Poor posture, which forces the spine out of alignment, can be a factor in the development of pain from the facet joints. Trauma, inflammation, infection, and disc degeneration are other suggested causes of facet joint pain.

How is facet joint syndrome diagnosed?

A procedure called a facet joint block might be done to determine if the facet joints are the source of the pain. A facet joint block involves injecting a numbing medicine into or very near the nerves that supply the facet joint. Facet joint syndrome is confirmed if there is a significant decrease (50 percent or more) in pain after the joint has been numbed. If the pain is not relieved by the injection, it is unlikely that the facet joint is the source of the pain.

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