Facet arthropathy: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Definition: It is a central nervous system disease where the nerves degenerate, carrying corresponding signals to the muscles.

Today we will analyze facet arthropathy.

We all have 24 vertebrae in our spine, with two facet joints between each vertebrae segment.

The smooth cartilage and a fluid-filled synovium capsule protect our facet joints. These help the joint movement without friction.

However, it is not uncommon for these structures to break down over time and with activity. This can lead to mild or moderate joint facet arthropathy.

Types of Facet Arthropathy

Lumbar: This is the degeneration of the lumbar joints. It is often referred to as facet arthropathy of L1-L5, which represents the lumbar vertebrae. This is often due to poor body mechanics.

Cervical facet arthropathy: This means that the neck joints are experiencing degeneration. It could be called C1-C7. Both poor body mechanics and closed traumatism can cause cervical facet arthropathy.


Degenerative facet arthropathy: This is another way of describing facet joint arthropathy. This is often used in a “thorough diagnosis.”

Hypertrophic facet arthropathy: Hypertrophy is a term that refers to the increase of an organ or area of ​​the body.

Bilateral facet arthropathy: Degeneration occurs on both sides of the joint.

Thoracic facet arthropathy: The joints in the thoracic area (upper back or thorax) may deteriorate. This is known as T1-T2 degeneration, which causes radiating pain in the arms and chest.

Multilevel facet arthropathy: A type of arthropathy that appears later in life and involves multiple facet joints.


  • Mild to severe back pain
  • Pain confined to a specific area of ​​the spine
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint lock
  • Tingling, numbness, and weakness
  • Bony spurs (small lumps that develop in advanced stages)
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of spaces in the spine) produces weakness in the buttocks and legs and back pain.
  • Pain that radiates to the shoulders, upper back, and chest (problems with the cervical joint)

Causes of Arthropathy

  • Obesity
  • Genetics
  • Gender
  • Overexertion
  • Traumatic injury
  • Illness or infection
  • Poor posture
  • Incorrect lifting

Often, the pressure due to the overload of the facet joints can lead to erosion of the discs in the spine.

As these discs degenerate, they wear out, causing the disorientation of the facet joints.

In some cases, the cartilage wears out, the fluid surrounding the facet joints begins to shrink in volume, and the friction causes bone spurs.

Some spurs press against the nerve roots or forcibly enter the spinal canal, forming spinal stenosis. All this, of course, causes pain in the back.

Diagnosis of Facet Arthropathy

Low back pain is a common complaint, and in some cases, it could be a facet of arthropathy.

Suppose you experience back pain that does not go away, consult a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis. The following tests can help identify the problem:

Computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging: these imaging tests may indicate degeneration of the facet joint.

Bone scan: It is also known as a bone density test and can show active areas of inflammation in the spine.

X-ray: An x-ray can help the doctor evaluate the general condition of your spine.

Blockage of facet joints: Injections of anti-inflammatory steroids relieve pain in the facet joints, so if an injection is made and the back pain disappears, it is likely to have a facet arthropathy.

Fluoroscopy: is a local anesthetic injection in the affected area. If pain is relieved, facet arthropathy is usually confirmed.


In terms of treatment of facet arthropathy, there are several approaches ranging from moderate to aggressive.

The treatment will depend to a great extent on the type of arthropathy and the level of pain that the person experiences. The following list covers most of the treatment options for facet arthropathy:

Physiotherapy: some experts consider this to be the most important treatment option. It can help increase the range of movement in the joints and improve muscle and ligament strength.

Over-the-counter medications: acetaminophen or ibuprofen are used to control pain while people are engaged in physical therapy or exercise at home.

Tricyclic antidepressants: Studies show that these antidepressants effectively reduce chronic low back pain in some people.

Morphine: used in cases of severe pain.

Anesthetic injections: local anesthesia is injected into the facet joints every six to nine months.

Radiofrequency: an injection used to interrupt the pain in the joints.

Surgery: operations such as spinal fusion.

Prevention of facet arthropathy

If you have seen someone go through facet joint syndrome, you know you do not want to follow the same path.

It can be painful and make it impossible to enjoy simple daily activities. If you want to avoid facet arthropathy, follow the following tips.

Stay active: being immobile causes reduced circulation related to weight gain, putting pressure on the spine.

Eat healthily: a nutritious diet will help keep joints lubricated and control weight.

Avoid tobacco and alcohol: they can reduce circulation and contribute to the drying of joints.

Use good posture: consider the posture while sitting and standing.

Apply proper body mechanics: Bend and lift correctly.

Maintain flexibility: practice flexibility through various exercises.

Stretching: Include stretching exercises in your regular exercise routine.

Supplement: Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D.

In addition to the above tips, you can do exercises specific to strengthening your back.

Get good instructions from a qualified physiotherapist or personal trainer before attempting back exercise to avoid injury.