FACET
JOINT ARTHROPATHY

What is it?
The facet joints are small joints in the back of the spine. They can cause pain and symptoms from an acute injury or develop over time from wear and tear or arthritis.

How does it occur?
These joints may become acutely injured, such as whiplash or an extension injury to the spine. The joints are jammed together and are injured causing symptoms. The joints can become arthritic over time and cause discomfort.

What are the symptoms?
In the low back the pain will stay mostly in the middle or midline of the back. Sometimes, the pain will radiated or travel to the buttock. In the neck, the pain will be in the neck and can radiate to the shoulder or to the head. Bending the neck or low back backwards or extending the spine will typically cause pain.

How is it evaluated?
A clinical examination and history will help to determine if facet joints are causing pain. X-rays and an MRI are also helpful. Injecting the facet joint or performing a medial branch block is a diagnostic test for painful facet joints.

How is it treated?
Painful facet joints are treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, facet joint injections, medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablation of the medial branch nerves.

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