Facet Joint Syndrome

The facet joints are small stabilising joints located behind the back of the spinal bones or vertebrae. They link the spinal bones together, allowing them to move as we move. Facet joints are a frequent cause of back or neck pain. This pain can travel into the arms or legs and may be difficult to distinguish from nerve pain.


Facet joint syndrome typically causes pain and tenderness over the back or neck. The joints may be painful to move, especially when bending backwards.


Facet joint syndrome is diagnosed using a combination of information from:

  • Symptoms and physical examination
  • CT and MRI scan
  • Nuclear medicine scanning to look for increased activity in the joints (SPECT scanning)
  • Diagnostic blocks


The pain and restricted movement of facet joint syndrome often reduces with pain and anti-inflammatory medications, as well as physical therapy.


In some cases, facet joint blocks may be performed to confirm the diagnosis, and radiofrequency denervations may provide more long-term relief.

Your pain specialist can advise on and perform these blocks.