Facet joint

Facet joints in the spinal column provide support, stability and mobility to the spinal vertebrae. A facet joint is a small, smooth bony plate that interlocks with the neighboring facet joint. Stacked vertically, facet joints create hingelike links in between the vertebrae and are important to our ability to move our necks and

The facet joints are put under a large amount of pressure while supporting the upper body and like other joints are prone to age-related deterioration. If you or a loved one are suffering from chronic pain related to facet joint damage, learning as much as possible is important. Information about facet joint anatomy and the treatment options for conditions can help you make a treatment decision with the best chance of a return to a healthy, active life.

Facet joint anatomy

Like other joints in the body, a facet joint is lined with cartilage, a smooth flexible material that allows the joints to move against each other without causing friction. Facet joints also are surrounded by lubricating capsules which contain connective tissue and synovial fluid. In addition to lubrication, synovial fluid provides nutrients to each facet joint.

The facet joints allow the spine to:

  • Flex forward
  • Bend backward
  • Rotate or twist

Factors that cause facet joints to degenerate, or become damaged include:

  • Arthritis of the spine
  • Overuse during work or sports
  • Weakened immune system
  • Traumatic bone fractures
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Extra body weight
  • Improper lifting

When the protective cartilage surrounding facet joints breaks down and the synovial fluid dries out, bone rubs against bone. This can cause bone spurs, as well as inflammation and irritation of the tissue located near the facet joint. Symptoms can include tenderness, stiffness and pain at the site of the facet joint, or the pain and discomfort can radiate to other parts of the body, including the shoulders, arms, legs and feet.

Treatment options for facet joint conditions

Upon diagnosis, most physicians will treat these symptoms with a course of conservative treatment including rest, heat/ice therapy and physical therapy. Surgery is usually a last-resort treatment, considered when conservative options do not bring improvement after weeks or months. This is because of the highly invasive nature of traditional open spine surgery, which requires a large incision, overnight hospitalization and a long recovery time.

If you are considering surgery because you have been diagnosed with facet disease, facet arthritis, facet joint syndrome, facet hypertrophy, degenerative facet joints or another spinal condition, contact Laser Spine Institute today. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional procedures because our surgeons are able to use a small, less than 1-inch incision to access the spine, resulting in a shorter recovery time for patients.^

For a no-cost MRI review* to determine if you may be a potential candidate for our procedures, reach out to our dedicated team of Spine Care Consultants today.