Facet Joint Syndrome
Facet joint syndrome is a condition that effects the facet joints in the spine and causes pain. The facet joints are the areas where the vertebrae join together (see arrow to the left). They are designed to impart strength, flexibility and spinal integrity, as well as offer a range of defined movement for each spinal level.
Facet joints can cause pain in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, and can also refer pain to the upper and lower extremities, and the chest wall and head, thereby making this a very important clinical finding. The International Association for the Study of Pain (Merskey & Bogduk, 1994) found that approximately 50% of all chronic spinal pain sufferers had facet joint involvement.
According to Manchikanti et al. (2004), 54% of all whiplash patients reported the prevalence of facet joint pain. The ratios were cervical 60%, thoracic 48% and lumbar 22%-45%, thereby making facet joint pain a very significant portion of the patient’s complaints. The authors also reported that only 15% of back pain sufferers can be diagnosed from a clinical examination alone, and facet joint syndrome falls into that category. An accurate diagnosis requires x-rays and often MRI’s in conjunction, to rule out additional pathology.