Facet Joint Pain

Facet joints are located in the spineand are intended to help support its weight and control the movement of vertebrae. They are located behind and between the vertebrae and may sometimes cause pain whenever they are inflamed or injured.

Pain Causes

As people age, their spine naturally deteriorates over time. Some of the soft cartilage between the vertebrae may wear out, causing them to rub together whenever a person moves. People with any type of degenerative spine disorder can experience pain in the facet joint no matter what their age. An accident that results in injury to the back could also result in joints that are painful. Excess wear caused by a great deal of heavy lifting can also result in the wearing of joints along the spinal column.

Who May Experience it?

Facet joint pain is most commonly felt by those who have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Those who work in an occupation that requires heavy lifting are also at risk of developing this disorder. Any time a person has a slipped disc, they are at risk of developing this type of pain. People who develop bone spurs on their vertebrae often find these spurs also affect the facet joints that surround them, thereby resulting in a great deal of pain. This condition may be somewhat hereditary, as those who have a degenerative spine disorder are more likely than others are to experience this syndrome.


There are several things a person can do to prevent problems relating to the facet joint. When lifting, it is important to stoop rather than bend at the waist. People should also avoid twisting their bodies whenever they are carrying heavy weight. Attempting to lift weight that is too heavy is not recommended. Doing exercises to strengthen back muscles may help to stabilize the vertebrae, thereby reducing the odds that an individual will experience pain in this area.


One of the most common symptoms of facet joint pain involves spasms that may occur in the upper, middle or lower back. This pain may radiate into the buttocks and upper leg when the affected joint is in the lower back, and extend into the arms and shoulders whenever there is irritation in the upper back. Patients might also notice pain whenever they bend forward or backwards. The back might sometimes be tender to the touch. It can often be difficult to distinguish pain in the facet joint from other types of back pain because the symptoms are relatively similar, so an x-ray is normally taken to make a firm diagnosis.

Facet joint pain does not always occur immediately after a triggering event. As a result, people may not know they have damaged this joint and continue to put stress on it. By the time the pain is discovered, the back may have already received additional trauma. Although it often comes and goes, this disorder should not be ignored because these joints will only continue to deteriorate over time.