Add as bookmark

Facet Joint Syndrome: Source of Your Back or Neck Pain?

by Jesse Cannone(more info)

listed in back pain, originally published in issue 173 - August 2010

Facet joints connect your vertebrae together. They provide a smooth slippery surface allowing you to bend and twist. And they limit your range of motion just enough to prevent accidental injury of your spinal cord.

When they hurt, it can seriously impact your ability to move normally. A painful cervical facet joint can immobilize your neck, cause an ache in your shoulder, and force you to turn your whole body just to look left or right. Pain from a lumbar facet joint may leave you unable to stand up straight, hunched over while you walk, and suffering a deep ache from your buttocks to the back of your thighs. Doctors call this common diagnosis facet joint syndrome.

Facet joints are a common source of back and neck pain. In fact, lumbar facet joints are implicated in nearly a third of chronic lower back pain cases and nearly half of all chronic neck pain cases when no herniated disc is present.

But before you blame your facet joints for your back or neck pain, let's first remember a syndrome is not the same thing as a cause. Even our family's children's dictionary accurately describes a syndrome as "a group of signs or symptoms that together indicate a particular disease or condition".

Doctors often use a facet joint block (an injection of anaesthetic into the facet joint) to isolate the source of pain. Then they'll turn around and use it to 'treat' the pain too. Isn't that a little like saying your flat tire has low air pressure, so just roll it around the corner and we'll pump some more air into it? Excuse me, but let's pull the nail out and patch the hole first, guys!

Again, facet joint pain is a symptom of a problem. While we want to end the pain, the only way to keep it from returning is to find and correct the underlying cause. Since the root problem varies from one individual to the next, there is no one single treatment that works for everyone. It will take some effort on your part to resolve the problem, but isn't a lifetime free of the cycle of pain, doctor visits and repeated facet joint injections worth it? If you're ready to end the cycle of pain, here's what I recommend:

Short-term pain relief (while you find and correct the root problem):

  • Heat therapy - while a heating pad may help, it won't give you the deep penetrating heat that can really relieve the ache. I highly recommend a far infrared heating pad which can penetrate 2-3 inches deep for effective pain relief;
  • Celadrin-based pain relief cream - while many off-the shelf creams may help, Celadrin is the only pain relief cream ingredient I've ever seen with a 100% success rate in relieving joint pain;
  • Natural anti-inflammatories - Inflammation is almost always related to painful facet joints. Use safer natural anti-inflammatories as a healthy alternative to dangerous NSAIDs.

Suggested therapies for finding and fixing the cause of your facet joint syndrome:

  • Muscle-Balance therapy - Restoring your body to a neutral, balanced and stable state is critical for your long-term pain relief. That's what muscle balance therapy helps you accomplish;
  • Trigger-point therapy - Trigger points have been proven to be directly responsible for 75% of all pain. Eliminating your trigger points should be a priority for pain relief;
  • Inversion therapy - Inversion therapy helps your body reseat misaligned facet joints by relieving pressure and allowing the joints to simply 'slip' back into the correct position;
  • Watch your diet - Avoid inflammatory foods - typically anything processed, high fat, high sugar, or including refined grains are inflammatory. Be sure to take a good multi-vitamin;
  • Emotional troubleshooting - When all else fails, evaluate your emotional life. Sometimes stress and emotions keep otherwise helpful treatments from working. This may just be the final step you need for relief from your facet joint syndrome related pain. Here's a video you might find helpful.


This article has previously been published on the author's page 
as well as on the author's Lose the Back Pain blog  


  1. Omega 3 Capsules said..

    Omega 3 Capsule helps to reduces symptoms like inflammation, stiff and Joint Inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis patients. -

  2. Matthew Morrish said..

    My wife has been told she has facet joint pain we went to get it fixed because she has been though 6 P.T. Workers and this keeps her up at night she's in pain a lot

  3. Lisa Diesel said..

    I had an inflamed cervical facet joint causing severe pain about 5 yrs ago, had the injection of steroid and been well, tho the treatment was about as pleasant as a root canal. It is recurring now, and I have been using massage, NSAIDS, heat packs, ice packs and ultrasound to get control of the pain. After all that, the most noticeable relief has been an increase in antidepressant and also 1200 mg of Omega 3 daily, my source is krill oil. good luck to you!

« Prev Next »

Post Your Comments:

About Jesse Cannone

Jesse Cannone CFT CPRS. Fitness and Rehabilitation expert, together with Massage therapist Steve Hefferon co-founded The Healthy Back Institute in 2001 and is the author of The 7 Day Back Pain Cure. Jesse has helped many people achieve their weight loss and fitness goals through his articles, books, audio programs, videos, and seminars. In addition to being a certified fitness trainer, Jesse holds many other certifications, including Post-Rehabilitation Specialist, Specialist in Performance Nutrition, and Master Fitness Trainer. He may be contacted via;

  • College of Ayurveda UK

    Diploma in Āyurvedic Medicine, 4-year self-paced distant learning program in Āyurvedic medicine.


    The FLEXXICORE exercise revolution: transform your fitness regime with 2 exhilarating exercisers

  • health & fitness books

    Massage, sports injury, holistic, healthcare and specialists books written by leaders in their field

top of the page