Facet Arthropathy: How to Resolve Your Pain

July 20, 2023Kolton Opdahl
Back & Neck PainPlatelet Rich Plasma (PRP)Prolotherapy

Facet arthropathy is a common condition that affects many people, especially as they age. This condition is also known as facet arthropathy or facet syndrome, and it can cause significant joint pain and discomfort. Facet joint arthritis occurs when the joints in the spine become inflamed and damaged, resulting in pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. In this blog post, we will explore the symptoms, treatment, and prevention of facet joint arthritis to help you better understand this condition.

What are Facet Joints?

Facet joints are located in the back of the spine and play a crucial role in providing stability and support to the vertebrae. These joints are responsible for allowing the spine to bend and twist, which allows for movement and flexibility. Each vertebra has two facet joints, which connect to the vertebrae above and below. These joints are covered in cartilage, which helps to cushion the bones and prevent them from rubbing together.

The facet joints are surrounded by a capsule that contains synovial fluid. This lubricates the joint and allows it to move smoothly. The joint is also supported by ligaments and muscles, which help to keep it stable and prevent excessive movement.

facet arthropathy

What is Facet Arthropathy?

Facet arthropathy occurs when the cartilage that covers the facet joints wears away, causing the bones to rub against each other. This results in inflammation and damage to the joint, leading to pain and stiffness. Facet joint arthritis can occur at any level of the spine, but it most commonly affects the lower back (lumbar spine) and the neck (cervical spine).

As we age, the cartilage that covers the joints begins to wear away, making it more susceptible to damage. Other factors that can contribute to the development of facet joint arthritis include obesity, injury, and repetitive strain.

Symptoms of facet arthropathy include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the affected joint
  • Limited range of motion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
  • Headaches
  • Swelling or tenderness around the joint

Diagnosis of facet joint arthritis typically involves a physical exam, medical history review, and imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans.

Facet Joint Pain or Disc Pain?

When it comes to treating spinal pain, it is important to understand the specific cause of the problem. While many spinal conditions can cause pain and discomfort, the treatment approach will vary depending on the underlying cause.

When the pain is caused by problems with the facet joints rather than the discs, different treatment options may be necessary. Facet joint pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including arthritis, injury, or wear and tear. In some cases, treatment may involve physical therapy, medication, or injections to help manage the pain and improve joint function.

It is important to note that treating the facet joints rather than the discs requires a different approach. While many patients may benefit from conservative treatments like physical therapy or medication, others may require more invasive procedures like facet joint injections or surgery to address the underlying problem.

Ultimately, the best approach to treating spinal pain will depend on the individual patient and the underlying cause of their symptoms. By working closely with a qualified healthcare provider, patients can develop a personalized treatment plan. This will address their specific needs and helps them find relief from their pain.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition that occurs when the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. This pressure can cause a range of symptoms, including pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs, back, and neck.

Spinal stenosis can be caused by a variety of factors, including aging, injury, and degenerative changes in the spine. Some people may be born with a narrow spinal canal, which can also lead to spinal stenosis later in life.

While spinal stenosis can be a debilitating condition, many people are able to find relief with proper treatment. It is important for patients to work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and goals.

Prevention of Facet Joint Arthropathy

While facet joint arthritis cannot be entirely prevented, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce their risk of developing this condition. Here are some prevention strategies:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese puts extra stress on the joints, which can increase the risk of wear and tear. Maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can help to reduce the risk of developing facet joint arthritis.
  • Practice good posture: Poor posture can put extra strain on the spine, which can increase the risk of joint damage. Maintaining good posture can help to reduce the risk of developing facet arthropathy.
  • Avoid repetitive strain: Activities that involve repetitive motions, such as lifting heavy objects or playing sports, can increase the risk of joint damage. It is important to take breaks and vary activities to avoid putting too much strain on the joints.
  • Stay active: Regular exercise can help to keep the joints healthy and reduce the risk of wear and tear. Low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, or yoga can help to maintain joint flexibility and strength.
  • Seek treatment for injuries: Injuries to the spine or other joints can increase the risk of developing facet joint arthritis. Seeking prompt treatment for injuries can help to reduce the risk of long-term joint damage.

Treatment and Management of Facet Arthropathy

Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is the first and most important step to determining treatment. After that there are several treatment options available for facet joint arthritis, depending on the severity of the condition. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain, improve mobility, and prevent further damage to the joint.

Conservative treatment options for facet arthropathy include:

  • Rest and activity modification: Resting the affected joint and avoiding activities that exacerbate the pain can help to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  • Heat or ice therapy: Applying heat or ice to the affected joint can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist to perform specific exercises can help to improve mobility, strength, and flexibility.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or NSAIDs may be recommended to help reduce pain and inflammation.

In cases where conservative treatment options are not effective, more invasive treatments may be necessary. These treatments include:

  • Facet joint injections: Injections of steroids and anesthetic directly into the affected joint can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: This procedure involves using heat to destroy the nerve fibers that are responsible for transmitting pain signals from the affected joint.
  • Surgical options: In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or replace the damaged joint.

Prolotherapy for Facet Arthropathy

Prolotherapy injections are a relatively new treatment option for facet joint pain that has shown promising results. This treatment involves injecting a solution into the affected joint to promote the growth of new tissue and help stabilize the joint. We have successfully treated facet joint pain at Joint and Arthritis Pain Relief.

The solution typically contains a mixture of dextrose and other substances that stimulate the body’s natural healing response. As the body responds to the injections, it may produce new tissue in the affected joint, which can help to reduce pain and improve joint function.

Prolotherapy injections are typically performed in a series, with each injection given a few weeks apart. Patients may experience some soreness or discomfort at the injection site, but these symptoms typically subside within a few days.

PRP Injections for Facet Arthropathy

PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections are another treatment option for facet joint pain. Platelet Rich Plasma is a solution that is made from the patient’s own blood, which is centrifuged to concentrate the platelets and growth factors.

The concentrated PRP solution is then injected into the affected joint to help promote healing and reduce inflammation. PRP injections are thought to work by stimulating the body’s natural healing response, which can lead to the growth of new tissue in the joint.

Additionally, PRP injections are a minimally invasive treatment option that can be performed in an outpatient setting. This means that patients can typically return home the same day and resume their normal activities within a few days. It is a new non-surgical treatment option for those with facet arthropathy.

Spinal Instability Leads to Bone Spurs

Spinal instability is a condition in which the spinal column is no longer able to maintain its normal structure and function. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including pain, numbness, and weakness in the back, neck, and limbs. Over time, spinal instability can also lead to the formation of bone spurs.

Bone spurs are bony projections that develop along the edges of bones. In the spine, bone spurs can develop in response to the increased pressure and stress placed on the joints and ligaments due to spinal instability. As the body tries to stabilize the spine, it may produce extra bone tissue in an attempt to strengthen the affected area.

Unfortunately, bone spurs can also contribute to further spinal instability by causing compression and irritation of nearby nerves and spinal structures. This can lead to additional pain, weakness, and other symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove bone spurs and address the underlying spinal instability.


Facet joint arthritis is a common condition that can cause significant pain and discomfort. However, there are many treatment options available to help manage the symptoms and prevent further damage to the joints. If you are experiencing joint pain or stiffness, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. In o to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. With the right care, it is possible to manage facet joint arthritis and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

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