What It Is
In between each of the bones in the spine, the facet joints make up the connections that allow the back to bend and flex. Inside the spinal column there lies a hollow space that contains the nerve root. The nerve roots pass through these joints and extend outward from the spinal cord, branching out to the arms, legs and other parts of the body.
These joints also allow the spine to bend and twist, and they also act as brakes to keep the back from slipping too far forward or twisting without limits. Like the knee joint, they have specially shaped cartilage to allow smooth movement where two bones meet. The joints have linings filled with synovium and lubricating joint fluid.
Due to a variety of causes, these facet joints can deteriorate. When either traumatic injury or degenerative arthritis causes these joints to break down, pain quickly sets into the affected joint. Degenerative Cervical Facet Arthritis in the neck may cause headaches and difficulty moving the head. In the lower back, this is called “Lumbar” Facet Joint Arthritis. Lumbar Facet Disease can generate bone spurs that impinge the spinal cord, causing pain in the lower back, buttocks or thighs. In cases that have not yet progressed to the point of intense pain, Lumbar Facet Arthritis may also cause tingling, numbness and weakness that radiates outward into the affected limbs due to the increased pressure on the central nerve root.