Back Pain caused by Facet Joint Injury


This article is by our physiotherapist in Islington and is about how the facet joints in the spine function and how they get injured and cause back pain. The article looks at:

  • Anatomy

  • Function

  • How facet joints get injured and cause back pain.


Vertebrae are joined to each other by the intervertebral disc and by paired facet joints. Facet joints are like most of the other joints in the body and contain cartilage and a capsule containing synovial fluid. The facet joints also have a nerve supply and it is the stimulation of these nerves that can cause back pain to be felt.


Function of the joints

Facet joints are not major weight bearing joints but their alignment guides the movement of the spine. In the lumbar spine the joints face form front to back and this allows the lumbar spine to move in flexion and extension. In the thoracic spine where the ribs are the joints sit like slates on a roof and this allows rotation of the spine in this area. In the neck the joints sit more on top of each other and this allow the movement in all directions.

How facet joints cause back pain

The majority of the body’s weight is transferred through the intervertebral discs with only a small amount being transferred through the facet joints. During certain movements such as bending and twisting, more weight can be transferred through the joints than they are able to cope with and the joint gets injured, damaging the cartilage in the joint and tearing the capsule and soft tissues surrounding the joint. Sustained poor posture and poor seating can also cause the joints to fail and cause back pain.

Symptoms of facet joint back pain

There is often a lot of spasm at the level of the involved joint and pain on specific movements, particularly twisting and leaning backwards. There may also be loss of the normal curve in the area of the spine involved. Back pain associated with facet joints can also refer into the buttocks and over the hips and develop following sitting for long periods.

If you have back pain from the facet joints or from a slipped disc it is worth getting an accurate diagnosis. If you want to see our physiotherapist in Islington and find out the cause of your back pain click below to make an appointment.


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