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Facet joints are found between the vertebrae of your spine. They are small joints, and they help provide stability to your spine as you move. Like the other joints in your body, they are subject to wear and tear. When the facet joints start to change from the wear and tear, they can cause neck or back pain. Not all degenerative changes can be seen on an X-ray or MRI, but a diagnostic block to temporarily numb the nerves can diagnose this problem and will tell your doctor if the pain is caused by a facet joint or another condition.

What is Facet Joint Syndrome?

Facet joint syndrome is a common cause of back and neck pain. It is caused by wear and tear on a joint or joints between your vertebrae (small bones that make up your spine).

Facet joints link the vertebrae (small back bones) together in your spine. These joints stabilize the spine and allow you to bend and twist.

Like any joints in your body, facet joints can start to weaken, causing pain. This can be caused by an injury or by everyday wear and tear. When the facet joints weaken, the condition is known as facet joint syndrome. Another term for facet joint syndrome is osteoarthritis. Facet joint syndrome can cause pain and even disability for some people.


Common symptoms of facet joint syndrome include:

  • Back or neck pain
  • Numbness in your hands or feet
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty twisting and bending
  • Headaches

When to See a Doctor

If you have symptoms of facet joint syndrome, you should contact your healthcare provider. Symptoms of facet joint syndrome may be caused by other medical conditions that may need immediate treatment.


The natural aging process often causes facet joint syndrome. Other causes may include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Injury
  • Degeneration of facet joints

Diagnosis and Tests

To diagnose facet joint syndrome, your healthcare provider will first review your medical history and perform a physical exam. They may order blood tests to rule out infections or other medical conditions that may be causing your symptoms. They may also perform other tests such as:


Treatment will depend on several factors including your age and the severity of your symptoms. Treatment options may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Spinal injections
  • Medication
  • Surgery


As you get older, your facet joints will naturally break down. It is part of the aging process. While you can’t prevent this process, there are things you can do slow the progression.

  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid injury to neck and back
  • Maintain a healthy weight

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