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Osteoarthritis Facet Joint


Osteoarthritis is a bone and joint disorder. Osteoarthritis is commonly called a degenerative joint disease and one of the most common types of arthritis that initiates a gradual deterioration of joint cartilage. Cartilage protects the ends of bones from friction or rubbing against each other. Synovial fluid provides protection and lubrication for cartilage and joint tissues. As we age or when a joint is injured, cartilage tends to wear down. The most common sites for osteoarthritis include the neck, fingers, wrist, hips or knees.

Facet joints are located between the vertebrae of the spine and help the spine move. Wear and tear and friction of facet joints is a form of osteoarthritis that causes pain and stiffness, and limited mobility and range of motion.


  • Deterioration of facet joint cartilage
  • Wear and tear on facet joints caused by aging
  • Injury to the facet joint
  • Obesity
  • Heredity
  • Constant stress on the facet joint, such as lifting or excessive weight


  • Stiffness, especially after periods of inactivity or sleep
  • Pain
  • Increased pain during weather changes, such as cold, damp climate conditions
  • Limited range of motion in the facet joint
  • Swelling in the facet joint
  • Warmth or redness in the affected facet joint
  • Cracking or rubbing sound in the facet joint when moving


Physician can often make a diagnosis of facet joint osteoarthritis following physical examination and relation of symptoms by the individual. However, other diagnostic tests may be performed, including:

  • Joint x-rays
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - to detect early damage to cartilage
  • Joint fluid analysis - to determine whether pain and stiffness is caused by infection, inflammation, or gout.


Treatment options for facet joint osteoarthritis will be determined by the severity and location of the bone joint injury or degeneration.

  • Pain relief through nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen
  • Protect the facet joint from further injury or overuse.
  • Exercise is often prescribed to improve muscle strength and tone, flexibility, range of motion and stability


Surgery may only be recommended for the relief of pain of damaged facet joints. It is not meant as a curative for arthritis. Spinal fusion or other spinal surgical procedures may be used for increased support of the spinal column in cases of facet joint arthritis or cervical spondylosis caused by arthritis.