What Is Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet joint syndrome, also known as facet joint pain, is a condition in which the facet joints in the spine become inflamed or damaged, causing pain and discomfort. It is a type of arthritis that affects the joints in the back of the spine, specifically the facet joints. This condition can occur in any part of the spine, but it is most common in the cervical (neck) and lumbar (lower back) regions.

Causes of What Is Facet Joint Syndrome

Facet joint syndrome can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Wear and tear: As the body ages, the cartilage in the facet joints can break down and become worn, leading to inflammation and pain.

Injury or trauma: Injuries to the spine, such as whiplash or a fall, can cause damage to the facet joints and result in facet joint syndrome.

Poor posture: Poor posture, especially when sitting or standing for long periods of time, can put extra stress on the facet joints and lead to pain and inflammation.

Overuse: Repetitive movements or overuse of the facet joints can lead to facet joint syndrome.

Degenerative conditions: Facet joint syndrome can occur as a result of degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.

Herniated disc: A herniated disc can put pressure on the facet joints, leading to pain and inflammation.

Spinal stenosis: Spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal, can also put pressure on the facet joints and cause facet joint syndrome.

It is important to note that facet joint syndrome can have multiple causes and may be a result of several factors, rather than just one.

Signs and Symptoms of What Is Facet Joint Syndrome

The signs and symptoms of facet joint syndrome can vary from person to person, and may include:

  • Pain: The primary symptom of facet joint syndrome is pain. The pain is usually localized to the affected joint and may be described as a dull ache or sharp, stabbing pain. The pain may worsen with certain movements, such as bending or twisting, and may improve with rest.
  • Stiffness: The affected joint may feel stiff and be difficult to move, particularly in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
  • Muscle weakness: Facet joint syndrome can cause muscle weakness in the affected area, particularly if the pain has been present for an extended period of time.
  • Numbness or tingling: In some cases, facet joint syndrome can cause numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, particularly if the affected joint is in the neck or lower back.
  • Limited range of motion: The affected joint may have a limited range of motion, making it difficult to perform certain activities.
  • Headaches: In some cases, facet joint syndrome can cause headaches, particularly if the affected joint is in the neck.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention to determine the cause of your pain and receive appropriate treatment.

Treatment for What Is Facet Joint Syndrome

The physiotherapy treatment for facet joint syndrome typically involves a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and education. Here are some common physiotherapy treatments for facet joint syndrome:

Manual therapy: This can include techniques such as joint mobilization, soft tissue massage, and myofascial release, which are designed to improve joint mobility and reduce pain.

Stretching exercises: Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility in the spine, which can reduce strain on the facet joints. Common stretches include spinal extension, lateral flexion, and rotation stretches.

Strengthening exercises: Strengthening exercises can help improve the stability of the spine and reduce the risk of future facet joint injuries. These exercises may include core strengthening, back strengthening, and postural exercises.

Education and activity modification: A physiotherapist can help identify any postural or movement patterns that may be contributing to facet joint syndrome and provide education on proper body mechanics to reduce strain on the facet joints. They may also recommend modifications to daily activities to reduce the risk of aggravating the condition.

Taping: Kinesiology tape may be used to provide support and stability to the facet joints and surrounding muscles.

Electrical modalities: Modalities such as ultrasound or TENS may be used to reduce pain and inflammation in the affected area.

It is important to work with a qualified physiotherapist to develop an individualized treatment plan for facet joint syndrome, as the specific treatment approach will depend on the underlying cause of the condition and individual factors such as age, fitness level, and overall health.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about facet joint syndrome please call us at 03 9836 1126.



Kamper SJ, Apeldoorn AT, Chiarotto A, et al. Multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation for chronic low back pain: Cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2015;350:h444.

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