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Facet Joint Syndrome: 11 Effective Strategies for Managing Back Pain

IMAGE: Freepix

How frequently do you experience stiffness and pain in your back? Do you find it difficult to stand upright? Does it hurt when you try to get up from a chair? Or do you have a hunched posture when walking?

Dealing with back pain can be a constant battle, affecting your physical well-being and overall quality of life. Among the many culprits behind back pain, facet joint syndrome has emerged as one of the more common causes, yet not so many people talk about it.

According to a study, researchers have linked facet joints to causing spinal pain in 15% to 45% of individuals experiencing chronic low back pain. This article will explore facet joint syndrome, from the causes and symptoms to the strategy for effective recovery.

Keep reading to discover!

Understanding Facet Joint Syndrome

Before delving into the strategy of back pain treatments, let’s learn about facet joint and facet joint syndrome better.

What is a Facet Joint?

If we look at our spinal column anatomy, facet joints are part of the connection between our bone series. Facet joints take place in the back part of our spine, allowing the adjacent vertebrae to stack up from the neck to the lower back and form our backbone. In our bodies, these joints are very similar in construction to our shoulder, knee, or even hip joint. 

Facet Joints Anatomy
(Image Source)

While facet joints support the back of the spine, the intervertebral disc cushions the front part. Human beings naturally have two facet joints at each level of the backbone. These joints and the disc form a tri-complex, facilitating motion and stability to our posture. It allows us to move, twist, bend, and rotate comfortably in many different ways.

Facet Joint Syndrome

A Normal Joint Vs. A Damaged Joint Anatomy
(Image Source)

What is Facet Joint Syndrome?

We move our back daily. Therefore, facet joints are prone to degeneration due to ‘wear and tear’. This degenerative joint disease is called Facet Joint Syndrome or facet joint osteoarthritis.

Facet joint syndrome occurs when these joints get inflamed, damaged, or degenerated. The smooth cartilage that usually cushions the joint surfaces deteriorates over time, leading to bone friction. This friction triggers pain, stiffness, and limited mobility, often centered in the lower back or neck.

Facet joints receive constant stress and abuse as we go through our daily activities. This is why facet joint syndrome has become a common source of back pain, making it difficult to maintain our posture when standing, sitting, or even sleeping. You can watch some compelling tutorials in motion graphics videos on the internet.

What Causes Facet Joint Syndrome?

Unfortunately, facet joint syndrome is almost inevitable as we grow older and if we live long enough. Wear and tear and degeneration are normal processes of aging, after all. However, several conditions potentially contribute to causing facet joint syndrome and exacerbate the issue, such as:

  • Fall injuries, accidents, and trauma
  • Spinal fractures and torn ligaments
  • Repetitive strain, bending, or twisting
  • Sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle
  • Being obese and overweight
  • Sudden forceful stretching
  • Poor posture

The Symptoms

The discomfort feeling can become apparent as the facet joint syndrome strikes. Here are some of the common symptoms of facet joint osteoarthritis:

  • Localized pain and tenderness, typically slightly off to the side of your back. The pain can also radiate to other areas like the buttocks or thighs. You might feel the stiffness worsen as you wake up in the morning and gradually intensify with movements as you go about your daily activities.
  • Feeling excessive pressure when getting up from a sitting position, stooping forward, or bending backward.
  • Uncomfortable sleeping position, slouched posture, and struggling to keep an upright stance when standing or walking.
  • Constant muscle spasms and stiffness.

The Diagnosis

It’s not recommended to self-diagnose your condition when it comes to back pain, as the symptoms of facet joint syndrome can be indistinguishable from other spine disorders and injuries. If you feel ceaseless pain in your back, it’s better to consult doctors immediately. They will look into your backbone condition and locate the pain sources.

To make an accurate diagnosis, your physician might involve a thorough examination and a combination of imaging techniques. X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans can help visualize the affected joints and assess the complications. Your doctor will also check on other things, such as medical history and physical tests, before diagnosing you with facet joint syndrome.

Effective Therapy: Strategies for Managing Back Pain

Don’t worry too much if your doctor diagnoses you with facet joint syndrome, as you can proceed with many techniques for recovery. Here’s a list of highly effective therapy options for managing back pain. 

Conservative Management

Conservative management becomes the first line of therapy when dealing with back pain. This strategy includes simple DIY practices that you can do independently at home. You can follow this therapy for managing mild to medium pain levels. 

1. Practice Self-Care

Taking care of your body often begins with giving it the rest it needs. Providing your body with a break can work wonders when dealing with facet joint pain. Adequate rest allows your joints to recover and reduces the strain and pressure on the affected area.

Additionally, try to modify your daily activities when needed. This helps you avoid too many unnecessary movements or actions that potentially trigger or exacerbate your back pain. The first step is quite simple: listen to your body and give it a chance to heal.

2. Guided Excercise

If you’re unsure about doing the therapy yourself, taking physical therapy under the guidance of a trained professional whether in person or through a video conferencing tool can be a game-changer option for managing your back pain. Typically, you need to do several targeted exercises to strengthen your muscles around the affected joints. 

These exercises not only enhance your joint support but also improve joint mobility. The guidance of a physical therapist is crucial here to ensure that you’re performing the right exercises correctly and safely.

3. Medications

Many individuals also prefer taking medications to relieve their discomfort and back pain. Both over-the-counter medicines and doctor’s prescriptions can help you get through the acute phase. Some of the common medications for back pain include:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Painkillers
  • Oral or topical medications, such as creams and patches

In cases where the pain becomes unbearable and severe, it’s wise to have a proper consultation before consuming any doses of drugs. Prescription medications might be necessary to provide more potent relief and improve your overall quality of life.

4. Try Lumbar Support 

Another alternative is to wear lumbar support for your spine. It can be back braces for the lower spine or even a neck collar if the stiffness spreads to your neck. Wearing those devices helps support your body and lift the burden of carrying your weight. 

These aids also help stabilize the spine, reducing strain on the facet joints and encouraging a speedy healing process. They also remind you to maintain proper posture, which is essential in preventing further aggravation of your condition.

5. Optimize Your Weight

You’ve probably heard about it many times. Keeping a healthy weight is more than just a cliche jargon if you want to stay fit in any medical situation. Losing some weight becomes helpful in managing back pain, as obesity can trigger facet joint syndrome. But why?

Excess weight places additional stress on your joints, particularly the facet ones supporting your spine. By shedding those extra pounds through a balanced diet and regular exercise, you can significantly reduce the load on your facet joints and subsequently alleviate your pain.

6. Apply Heat and Cold Therapy

Using a heat patch, a warm compress, or a cold pack can help ease the stiffness on your back. Heat and cold therapy are time-tested methods for relieving pain and reducing inflammation. You can apply this therapy during morning relaxation or after strenuous activity.

Heat therapy helps circulate blood flow to the affected area, easing muscle tension and giving a sense of relaxation to your spine. Conversely, cold therapy helps constrict blood vessels, reducing inflammation and numbing the painful area. Alternating between these therapies will bring relief and comfort to your stiff back.

7. Align Your Mind and Body

Physical interventions are sometimes not enough to manage the pain. More often than not, it also requires peace of mind, since anxiety can cause back pain. Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation will effectively reduce pain perception and improve overall well-being. 

These techniques foster relaxation and let your body calm down, which in turn helps soothe rigid and tense muscles. Practicing body and mind alignment will give you an optimistic viewpoint of your back pain management journey.

Minimally Invasive Treatments: Non-Surgical Options

Managing back pain caused by facet joint syndrome requires a multi-faceted approach. In addition to traditional efforts, exploring cutting-edge advancements in Biopharmaceutical manufacturing can contribute to a more comprehensive pain management strategy.

If conservative management has failed to modulate the pain, some of the non-surgical treatments available are:

1. Facet Injection

Facet injections and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections offer a safe remedy for chronic back pain and joint injury. These processes are usually guided by imaging techniques such as X-rays (fluoroscopy) and CT scans to help locate the right injection and direction. 

(Image by Author)

Facet injections mediate targeted pain relief by injecting cell fragments directly into the affected joint. The PRP technique uses circulating cells in your blood to stimulate tissue repair and boost your body’s natural recovery process.

2. Radiofrequency (Nerve) Ablation

If you’ve had a successful injection before, but the pain returns, nerve ablation can be the next option. Radiofrequency ablation involves using heat to destroy pain signals. A small device will deliver heat to the affected nerves in your spine, essentially “turning off” their ability to transmit pain. 

This procedure offers longer-lasting relief compared to some other interventions. Radiofrequency ablation helps patients get through the acute phase, making it a great option if you’re seeking sustained solutions for chronic back pain.

3. TENS Therapy

TENS therapy is quite similar to radiofrequency ablation in terms of concept. While the latter uses heat to disrupt pain, TENS uses mild electrical current. TENS itself stands for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS).

By definition, it’s a non-invasive method that employs low-voltage electrical currents to interrupt pain signals. By stimulating the release of endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers—TENS therapy can relieve back pain and make you more comfortable in daily movements. 

Surgical Alternatives

Back pain can grow into a more serious health problem, especially if facet joint syndrome is the cause behind it. Sometimes, you need to undergo a surgical procedure for more acute cases. Here are some surgical alternatives for facet joint osteoarthritis:

  • Lumbar decompression surgery or Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression (MILD)
  • Spinal fusion surgery
  • Reduction surgery or surgical manipulation of displaced facet joints
  • Fecetectomy, Laminectomy, and Discectomy

How to Prevent Facet Joint Syndrome

While some cases of facet joint syndrome are difficult to prevent, you can still minimize the risk through some steps. Maintaining proper posture, exercising regularly, and adopting healthy habits are key factors to maintaining a healthy facet joint and avoiding back pain at an early age.


Facet Joint Syndrome may cause some inconveniences in your daily life, but don’t let it distract your activity. With these effective strategies at your disposal, you have all the requirements to take control of back pain management. 

From simple lifestyle adjustments to cutting-edge interventions, each approach brings you closer to a pain-free and fulfilling life. Remember that every small action you take to live a healthier lifestyle will result in the well-being of your spine, saying no more to back pain. 

If you have any concerns about your spinal health or are experiencing recurrent pain in your back, don’t think twice to consult a medical professional for personalized guidance and solutions.

Author Bio

Andre Oentoro is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, close more sales, and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order). 


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