Facet Joint Syndrome

OPA treats a wide variety of back conditions and offers comprehensive treatment options — including many non-surgical solutions.

What is Facet Joint Syndrome?

The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that perfectly align from the skull to the tailbone. The facet joints are joints between adjacent vertebrae that are responsible for movement. Facet joint syndrome, or facet joint osteoarthritis, occurs when facet joint cartilage becomes worn and torn with age or injury.

Common Causes:

    • Trauma
    • Abnormal postures
    • Degenerative changes in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, which can lead to abnormal stress and strain

Symptoms you should look for:

    • Pain
    • Stiffness
    • Swelling

Symptoms may be experienced in the spine or extremities. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should make an appointment with an Orthopedic Physicians Alaska (OPA) Spine Team Specialist as soon as possible. Facet joint syndrome is a chronic condition—its symptoms can be treated and its progression can be slowed or halted, but it cannot be cured.

When diagnosing facet joint syndrome, The OPA Spine Team:

    • Obtain a medical history to assess facet joint syndrome risk factors
    • Perform a physical examination to check for symptoms and test spine strength and flexibility
    • X-rays are analyzed to determine the location and severity of osteoarthritis

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat mild to moderate facet joint syndrome. Numerous treatment options are usually included in an OPA Spine Team Specialist’s treatment plan:


A removable back brace.

Oral medications decrease nerve inflammation and pain.
Physical Therapy

One of OPA’s onsite physical therapist prescribes and monitors strengthening and stretching exercises.

Facet Joint Fusion:

If nonsurgical options have not alleviated symptoms, an OPA Spine Team Specialist may discuss with you a procedure known as a facet joint fusion. A facet joint fusion removes arthritic facet joint bone and cartilage and replaces it with bone graft, which later fuses with existing bone. After this minimally invasive procedure, symptoms improve dramatically.

Severe Facet Joint Syndrome:

Severe facet joint syndrome may require minimally invasive treatment. OPA Spine Team Specialists perform a variety of minimally invasive procedures:

    • Injections. Corticosteroid and anesthesia medications quickly decrease pain and inflammation.
    • Nerve block. Anesthetic medication is injected near an inflamed nerve to stop pain signals to the brain.
    • Rhizotomy. Heat and radio frequency energy deaden nerves that send pain signals to the brain.

Our Spine Team

The OPA team includes Alaska’s leading spine specialists and offers some of the latest, most advanced treatment procedures available today.

OPA treats a wide variety of back, neck, and spine conditions and offers comprehensive treatment options — including many non-surgical solutions.

All treatments work to restore pain-free spine function that allows patients to lead active, fulfilling lives, be it walking pain-free or getting back into athletic action.

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