Facet joint syndrome

The spinal column is made up of intervertebral discs and spinal joints (facets). Damage to the facets can also cause back pain. This is known as facet joint syndrome.

Height can be lost at individual levels of the spine as a result of wear and tear. Pain is caused by irritation of the existing nerve roots or the wing-like growths on the vertebrae. Facet joint syndrome is also often caused by previous intervertebral disc surgeries or prolapses. If the discs' function is impaired, the strain on the joints of the spine increases.

Diagram of facet joint syndrome


Often, patients complain of localised pain over a well-demarcated area of the lumbar, thoracic or cervical spine. X-rays show arthrosis of the spinal joints, while an MRI scan demonstrates the arthrosis and reveals anatomical changes.


In addition to conservative methods, the pain of facet joint syndrome can be treated via a minimally invasive procedure involving cold probes or lasers. Other approaches may be used, but this is rare.