Facet Joint Syndrome

Essential Spine Structure

Facet joints are an essential part of your spine’s structure, allowing you to twist, turn, bend and move.

Located between the adjacent vertebrae of the spine, these joints are in constant motion and provide your spine with stability and flexibility.

A common cause of lower back and lumbar pain is facet joint arthropathy, also called facet joint syndrome. If you struggle with back pain, this degenerative condition could be the cause.

At Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona, we specialize in treating patients who suffer from facet joint pain. With accurate diagnosis and a wide array of treatment plans, we can treat the source of your pain.

Schedule an Appointment Obtain Second Opinion

A facet joint highlighted on a model of the human spine.
Facet joint in a human spine model, highlighted in red where there is pain from facet joint syndrome.

What Is Facet Joint Syndrome?

Facet joint syndrome is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 50. It occurs when the joints become worn or torn, leading to bone spurs, inflammation and painful symptoms.

Healthy facet joints contain cartilage lubricated with synovial fluid that acts as a buffer between your vertebrae. The joints enable these bones to move against each other without pinching or grinding. Whether due to aging or trauma, facet joints can become injured. The cartilage wears away, and continued pressure on the joints causes the discs between the vertebrae to wear down and potentially collapse.

Schedule an Appointment

Patient Education Video

What Causes Facet Joint Pain?

When the space between your vertebrae is diminished and osteoarthritis progresses, the bones are left to rub against each other.

Small nerves travel from the spinal cord to your facet joints. When facet joint syndrome sets in, these medial branch nerves can make any movement incredibly uncomfortable or painful.

Facet joint syndrome is a widespread form of arthritis in older adults.

It usually results from normal wear and tear, but injuries can worsen it. This condition can also affect younger people due to injury or overuse. Once the facet joint is damaged, it can cause long-lasting or permanent disability.

The most common causes of facet joint syndrome are:

  • Degeneration and wear and tear due to aging
  • Trauma such as whiplash or a fall
  • Overuse due to playing sports or heavy labor demands
  • A family history of facet joint disease
  • Other factors such as excessive weight, infection or disease

Schedule an Appointment

Symptoms of Facet Joint Syndrome

Pain or discomfort in your low back, buttocks or legs can be caused by facet joint syndrome in the lumbar spine. If this disorder occurs in your cervical spine, symptoms are commonly experienced in the neck, shoulders and arms.

Some of the symptoms linked to facet joint syndrome include:

  • Severe spasms
  • Pain that radiates into the buttocks or shoulders, depending on the location of the damage to the spine
  • Headaches at the base of the skull
  • Flare-ups due to sitting for long periods of time
  • Pain that worsens due to activity, excessive standing or leaning backward
  • Pain that feels worse at the beginning of the day or when the weather changes

Schedule an Appointment

A woman holding her back in pain.

Facet Joint Syndrome Diagnosis

Accurate diagnosis ensures that the expert spine doctors at DISC can provide you with your best treatment options. Communication is at the heart of what we do. We listen, and we ask. We get to know you as a unique individual, not just another patient.

As we assess your symptoms, conduct a physical examination and run diagnostic tests, we begin to understand your pain journey to identify if you have facet joint syndrome. We may also recommend our proprietary diagnostic technique called Personalized Pain Mapping to accurately diagnose the specific pain generator causing your spinal symptoms.

Schedule an Appointment

See What Our Patients Are Saying!

Don’t just take our word for it. See what patients of DISC are saying about their experiences with our highly-skilled spine surgeons.

8,228 Reviews

Lumbar and Cervical Facet Joint Syndrome Nonsurgical Treatment in Arizona

If you have facet joint syndrome, the board-certified surgeons at DISC will work tirelessly to develop a customized treatment plan based on your unique needs and lifestyle. We are experts in a full range of minimally invasive spine procedures. Many conservative treatment options can potentially bring significant relief, such as: 

  • Activity modification
  • Pain medication, muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories
  • Heat and cold therapy
  • Exercise and physical therapy

Ultra Minimally Invasive Surgical Treatment Options

If conservative options are not enough, and your painful symptoms persist for more than three to six months, we may recommend an epidural steroid facet injection or medial branch diagnostic injection. These injections offer pain relief and often times pinpoints the pain generator in your back. If the pain is relieved we may offer a revolutionary long-term surgical option called an endoscopic rhizotomy.

Results of our endoscopic procedure have resulted in up to 5 years of back pain relief. If the pain in your low back becomes chronic or the facets become unstable we often recommend a lumbar spinal fusion, but only after exhausting our least invasive endoscopic spine surgery options.

Schedule an Appointment Obtain Second Opinion

Dr Abrams explaining spine x-ray Dr. Abrams laughing

Get the Treatment You Need for Facet Joint Syndrome in AZ

If you’re struggling with facet joint syndrome and chronic pain that impacts your daily activities, work or quality of life, then it’s time to contact the team at DISC. We are doctors who treat facet joint syndrome at its source. Although we’re located in Arizona, patients come to us from all over the world to experience relief from their symptoms.


Our spine health blog features up-to-date spine education and expert spine tips from our spine specialists here at DISC.

6 Exercises to Improve Your Posture
November 13, 2023

6 Exercises to Improve Your Posture

Kinesics is the expression of your body language. It’s the shrug of your shoulders, the quick wink to a friend, the unconscious puzzlement of your eyebrows when you can’t quite place a face. Your body evolves as you take on characteristics that define who you are. Your work and exercise routine will also have an […]

All About C5 and C6 Treatments
November 8, 2023

All About C5 and C6 Treatments

Each vertebra plays a role in supporting the body’s structure and facilitating movement. In this article, we will look at the cervical vertebrae, which comprise the upper portion of the spine. Specifically, the fifth (C5) and sixth (C6) vertebrae, as they hold special significance.  C5, the fifth cervical vertebra, finds its position just below C4 […]

treatment options for annular tears
November 7, 2023

Treatment Options for Annular Tears

An annular tear is a discogenic condition that impacts the spine, causing lower back pain. Natural wear and tear, sports injuries, improper lifting and repetitive motions are the most common causes of annular tears, as the injury results from the fibers that make up the intervertebral disc breaking or separating.  While these tears can occur […]

What Is Foraminal Disc Protrusion?
November 3, 2023

What Is Foraminal Disc Protrusion?

Foraminal disc protrusion, which is one way that contributes to foraminal stenosis, is a spinal condition that occurs when a disc in the spine extends beyond its normal boundaries and presses on the nerve roots within the foraminal canal. This canal is a passageway through which nerve roots exit the spinal cord and travel to […]

Everything You Need To Know About Restless Leg Syndrome
October 18, 2023

Everything You Need To Know About Restless Leg Syndrome

Do you ever have trouble sleeping because your legs and feet feel itchy, tingly or cramped? You may be experiencing restless legs syndrome (RLS), a condition that affects up to 10% of people in the United States. RLS usually happens at night or when a person has to sit still for a long time.  Depending on its […]

tiny cameras are now taking center stage in spinal surgery
September 18, 2023

How Tiny Cameras are Now Taking Center Stage in Spinal Surgery

Dealing with back pain caused by disc degeneration and herniation has long been a challenge. For years, surgeons have been using various techniques to address these issues, with the operating microscope being a crucial tool. However, a game-changing evolution is happening in spinal surgery thanks to a device that’s been around for a while — […]

M6-C Artificial Cervical DISC Two-Level IDE Clinical Study
September 15, 2023

M6™-C Artificial Cervical Disc Two-Level IDE Clinical Study

A Guide to Awake Spine Surgery
September 7, 2023

A Guide to Awake Spine Surgery

Having surgery while awake can sound a little odd, but in the field of spine surgery, it’s been happening for a few decades now. This unique method of surgery offers some exceptional benefits, helping people enjoy less recovery time and supporting surgeons in more accurate, safer procedures. Let’s explore awake spine surgery and how to […]

Myelopathy: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
August 19, 2023

Myelopathy: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Spinal injuries can wreak havoc on your life, impacting your organs, motor functions or senses. They must be handled with prompt medical attention to prevent lasting damage. Speak with your doctor if you notice any peculiar symptoms, such as those caused by myelopathy. Myelopathy is a common spinal cord condition that can limit a person’s […]

March 6, 2023

DISC Surgeons Named 2023 Top Docs

Congratulations to DISC’s surgeons, Christopher Yeung, Justin Field, and Nima Salari, for being chosen as Phoenix Magazine’s TOP DOCTOR in 2023.

January 16, 2023

Join Dr. Nima Salari at Amplify Surgical’s 2nd Annual Endoscopic Spine Symposium

Register today for Amplify Surgical’s 2nd Annual Endoscopic Spine Symposium, featuring dualPortal™ and dualX® System on March 4, 2023. 

December 22, 2022

Dr. Chris Yeung Featured on AZ Physicians

Congratulations to Dr. Yeung for being featured on the front cover of Maricopa County Medical Society’s “Arizona Physician” Winter 2022 magazine!

September 2, 2022

Spine Care for Baseball Players Podcast with Dr. Chris Yeung

Dr. Chris Yeung was interviewed by Arizona Physician Magazine – a publication that provides information for physicians across Arizona.

April 11, 2022

DISC Surgeons take Phoenix – Top Doc Award in 2022

Dr. Salari received the most votes in the Orthopedic Surgery of the Spine category. Dr. Yeung received the award for the 10th consecutive year.

January 7, 2022

Dr. Chris Yeung Panelist at UCI Health Webinar

DISC surgeon Dr. Chris Yeung participates as a panelist in UCI Health Comprehensive Spine Center Webinar Series on January 14th, 2022.

November 22, 2021

DISC surgeons participate in M.O.R.E. Spine Learning Center

DISC surgeons Dr. Salari and Dr. Wang participated as instructors in a recent M.O.R.E. Education Spine Program in Phoenix, Arizona on November 19-20, 2021. The M.O.R.E. Spine Learning Center offers surgeons the opportunity to attend cadaver labs, meet experienced surgeons and discuss the clinical, technical and economic aspects of new spine treatment technologies.

September 22, 2021

Join Dr. Chris Yeung at an Endoscopic Workshop at NASS

Begin or advance your Endoscopic skills at NASS on September 29th, 2021. Elliquence is dedicated to ensuring the best education for doctors and physicians on the Endoscopic Spine and MIS procedures using didactic and cadaveric hands-on instruction.

Spine Surgeon Spotlight - Dr. Nima Salari
September 14, 2021

Dr. Nima Salari Listed On Becker’s “50 Spine Surgeons To Know”

We are proud to announce that Dr. Nima Salari has been named to Becker’s Spine Review “50 Spine Surgeons To Know.” Written by Carly Behm | August 26th, 2021 Nima Salari, MD. Desert Institute for Spine Care (Phoenix). Dr. Salari was reportedly the first spine surgeon to implant Amplify Surgical’s 12-degree hyperlordotic DualX interbody cage. His specialties include pathologic conditions of the spine and minimally invasive surgery.