Facet Joints & Facet Syndrome

Facet joints are located at the back of the spine and are designed to guide and limit motion. The planes of these joints are very different in the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine. In the cervical spine the joint planes are fairly obliquely horizontal and in the upper neck allow for lots of spinal rotation, so you can turn your head to see that car coming! In the lower part of the neck the joints are a bit more obliquely vertical to allow you to bend your ear to your shoulder, and in the thoracic spine the joints are lined up to allow forward bending and side bending, but we are severely limited in most motion there because our rib cage attaches to all 12 thoracic vertebra in the back and to the sternum in the front. By contrast, the lumbar vertebral facet joint are lined up primarily for bending straight forward and backwards to a degree. It’s why it’s so difficult to twist from the low back much more than 15-20 degrees.


These joints have a capsule around them and so they are considered synovial joints. This means they are lubricated to allow for smooth movement. However, when the disc breaks down and is no longer doing its job, some of that stress is transferred to the facet joint. Its automatic response to this added stress is to adapt by thickening. The capsule might become irritated and inflamed, and eventually the joint itself might hypertrophy. This is called facet arthropathy. One can also develop a synovial cyst, which is an outpocketing of the synovial capsule in response to abnormal mechanical stress on the joint. Since we now know that the facet joint contributes to the border of the spinal canal, then a thickening of the facet joint capsule, a synovial cyst, or inflammation of the joint (arthropathy) would obviously be a player in causing spinal stenosis of both the spinal canal and neuroforaminal stenosis.


Disease of the facet joints or facet syndrome is most common in the low back. Symptoms can be confused with disc herniations because of the overlap of some symptoms. However, most people with facet issues have limited range of motion in extension - bending backward. Likewise, lying on your back might be very difficult. As with any condition causing pain, there are degrees of loss of function and pain associated with them. We, as people, all respond differently to painful stimulus.


What’s great about Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression is that

  • it relieves pressure on the discs helping to rehydrate them, and

  • helps to restore normal motion.

Non-surgical spinal decompression also reduces disc bulges and disc herniations, and it reduces the pressure on the facet joints, and decreases pain and inflammation. We also utilize a powerful Class IV Laser to increase microcirculation, reduce inflammation, and promote the healing of the facet joints. Then, we rehabilitate your spine utilizing BackProject’s Active Therapeutic Movement (ATM). Using specific movement and exercises, we reduce the load on your facet joints and normalize your muscle and joint function.