Facet joint syndrome

Injurymap's app can help you treat your pain

Do you suffer from unpredictable back or neck pain that occurs off and on? Do movements like bending or twisting make your pain worse? Does changing position ease the pain? Do you feel a dull ache present directly over the spine? If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, you might be suffering from facet joint pain. What is this condition and why do you have it? More importantly, what can you do to make the pain go away?

At Injurymap, we understand that neck and back pain can limit your lifestyle. It can prevent you from doing the things you love. With this comprehensive guide, we bring you all the information you need to understand facet joint pain. Read on to find out what you can do to treat and prevent this potentially debilitating condition. Remember, this guide is meant for information only. Please see a healthcare provider if your symptoms are severe or do not improve with home remedies.

Looking for a solution to your facet joint pain? Try the Injurymap exercise app now.


What is facet joint pain?
Can facet joint pain be cured?
Causes of facet joint pain
Symptoms of facet joint syndrome
Diagnosis of facet joint pain
Facet joint pain exercises
Other treatment options for facet joint pain
When to see a doctor
Does facet joint pain go away?

What is facet joint pain?

Before we dive into the causes and treatment of facet joint pain, let’s understand what the term means. The human spine is made up of individual bones called the vertebrae. These small bones are stacked one above the other. Each vertebra consists of three parts – a large disc and two projections behind it which are called facets. These three structures form a tripod that gives the spine stability and flexibility.1 It allows us to bend and twist while keeping the spinal bones linked together.

The facets of the vertebrae are linked to one another at the facet joints. Each joint is lined with cartilage and has a lubricating synovial fluid inside a joint capsule. When the facet joints are healthy, they glide easily and allow us to move our back and neck without pain. Healthy facet joints also keep the spine stable and prevent over-bending and over-twisting.1

Other treatment options for facet joint pain

The best way for you to successfully treat facet joint pain for the long-term is with exercise. It’s important that you do the exercises properly with the correct technique. The Injurymap app demonstrates the correct posture for each exercise so you can follow along easily at home. Besides exercise, there are other ways to treat facet joint pain. Some of them are listed below.

  • Posture correction: You can treat and prevent facet joint pain by maintaining a good posture in which the spine has a normal curvature. For example, you can pull the car seat forward and support the low back during a long car ride.6 It’s also a good idea to take occasional rest breaks and stretch the back if you have a long commute.

  • Hot and cold therapy: During an episode of pain, ice and heat application can help ease symptoms.

  • Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen and acetaminophen) are pain-relieving drugs. They are available over-the-counter for short-term use.

Besides the conservative treatments mentioned above, there are some more invasive treatments for severe or persistent facet joint pain.

  • Steroid injection: Injection of steroid medicine and local anesthetic into the facet joints can offer longer lasting pain relief. This is also diagnostic of the condition, i.e., relief of pain after the injection confirms that the facet joint is the source of your pain.

  • Radiofrequency ablation: The doctor first performs a diagnostic facet block (injection of local anesthetic and steroid medication). This helps confirm the source of the pain. Once the painful facet joint is identified, a needle is inserted under X-ray guidance to the correct site. Radio waves are then used to burn the nerves. This prevents them from sending pain signals to the brain. The procedure is called radiofrequency ablation.7 It can provide pain relief for up to 2 years.1

  • Facet rhizotomy: This is a procedure in which an electric probe is used to destroy the nerve endings in painful facet joints. This provides relief of pain because the nerves that carry the pain signals to the brain are destroyed.6

  • Facet debridement: This is a minimally invasive procedure (keyhole surgery) in which the surgeon removes some of the damaged tissue from the facet joint.

  • Spinal fusion: If the pain from facet arthropathy is severe and not relieved by non-surgical treatments, the doctor may recommend spinal fusion surgery. This procedure stops motion at the level of the painful facet joints and decreases pain from the joint.8

When to see a doctor

In the majority of people, facet joint pain can be managed with conservative treatments and home exercises.1

Symptoms you should be extra aware of

  • The back or neck pain does not improve with rest, pain medication, and exercise.
  • The pain has spread to the arms or legs.
  • The pain is severe and prevents you from performing daily activities or keeps you up at night.
  • You experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or legs.
  • You have other symptoms such as fever, redness of the skin, or unexplained weight loss.
  • You have trouble controlling your bladder or bowels.

Does facet joint pain go away?

Facet joint pain tends to come and go. The pain gets worse with activities like twisting, bending, and lifting. Because the episodes are recurrent and erratic, they are sometimes brushed off as “it’s all in your head.” This can be discouraging for a person who has symptoms of facet joint pain. What can make the situation even more disheartening is that the degeneration in the spine worsens with time. The good news is that facet joint pain can be managed successfully without surgery in most cases. You can live a healthy and active life despite facet arthropathy. There are several effective treatment options available.

Some of the factors that increase your risk of developing facet arthropathy are out of your control. These include your age, gender, and ethnicity. But there are things you can do to prevent, delay, and treat facet joint pain. Make sure you maintain a good posture. Keep your body weight within a healthy range. Perform regular stretching and strengthening exercises. This can slow down facet joint degeneration and reduce stress on the spine.

The Injurymap app has a range of back and neck stretches and strengthening exercises. Make it a habit to include these exercises in your daily workout. This will help improve control of the backbone and stretch out the facet joints to reduce and prevent pain. The app demonstrates the correct way to perform each exercise so that it’s easy to follow along at home.

Try the Injurymap app today – the first 14 days are free!

No Pills. Just Exercise
Play Video

Treat your pain with Injurymap

Download the app to get a customized program that addresses your specific pain with exercises.

Popular articles


Hip Flexor Stretching


A Guide to Better Sleep: How to rest well when you’re in pain


The Best Stretches for Shoulder Pain