symptoms of facet arthropathy

What You Need to Know About the Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy

Learn more about the symptoms of facet arthropathy and how to get the treatment you need to manage them.


Table of Contents


Facet arthropathy is characterized by degenerative changes in the spine’s facet joints. The symptoms of facet arthropathy vary depending on the severity of joint degeneration.

Common symptoms of facet arthropathy include localized pain in the affected area. This can be a sharp, stabbing, or aching pain.

Consequences of Facet Arthropathy

This condition may lead to stiffness and reduced range of motion in the spine. This makes it difficult to bend or twist.


In some cases, the degenerated facet joints may compress nearby spinal nerves. This will lead to:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling sensations
  • Muscle weakness in the arms or legs

Common Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy

Some common symptoms of facet arthropathy will be detailed below.

Localized Pain

Facet arthropathy causes pain in the affected area of the spine. The pain is usually localized and is a dull ache or stiffness. The pain may worsen with specific activities that stress the facet joints.1

Radiating Pain

In some cases, the pain from facet arthropathy can radiate to other body areas. 


For example, if the facet joints in the lower back are affected, the pain may radiate to the buttocks, hips, or thighs.

Reduced Range of Motion

Facet arthropathy can decrease the range of motion in the affected part of the spine. This makes it difficult to perform certain movements without experiencing pain or stiffness.

Joint Tenderness

The facet joints can become tender to touch and sensitive. Pressing on the affected area may also cause pain or discomfort.

Stiffness and Muscle Spasms

Facet arthropathy can cause muscle stiffness and spasms in the surrounding muscles. This can further contribute to pain and limited mobility.

Numbness or Tingling

In some cases, facet arthropathy can result in nerve compression. This can lead to:
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pins-and-needles sensation

Note About Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy

Other spine-related conditions can also cause symptoms of facet arthropathy. Because of this, it’s essential to consult a professional for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

How Does Facet Arthropathy Differ from Other Spinal Disorders?

While symptoms of facet arthropathy may look like other conditions, it is unique compared to other spinal disorders.


Here are the ways in which facet arthropathy differs from other spinal disorders

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the inner core of a spinal disc protrudes through the outer layer. This can then compress the nearby nerves.2

How It Differs from Facet Arthropathy

In contrast, facet arthropathy primarily affects the facet joints. This leads to:
  • Degenerative changes
  • Joint inflammation
  • Potential nerve compression

Spinal Stenosis

This refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. 

How the Conditions Differ

Spinal stenosis affects:
  • Ligaments
  • Discs
  • Bone spurs

In contrast, facet arthropathy focuses on the degeneration of the facet joints.


Spondylolisthesis occurs when a vertebra shifts in relation to the adjacent vertebrae. It can result from various causes, including facet joint degeneration.3

How the Conditions Compare

In comparison, facet arthropathy refers to degenerative changes in the facet joints.


Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve. This nerve extends from the lower back through the hips and buttocks and down each leg.4

How It Compares to Facet Arthropathy

Facet arthropathy can lead to nerve compression and cause sciatic-like symptoms. It focuses on the degenerative changes in the facet joints.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease involves the gradual wear and tear of the spinal discs. This leads to:
  • Disc height loss
  • Disc bulges
  • Potential nerve compression

How it Compares to Facet Arthropathy

Facet arthropathy relates to the degeneration and inflammation of the facet joints. This can occur independently of disc degeneration.

Important Note About Spinal Disorders

It’s important to note that these conditions can coexist or contribute to each other.


A comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional is crucial. They can help determine the specific causes of symptoms and provide appropriate treatment.

How Do the Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy Vary?

The symptoms of facet arthropathy can vary. Here’s a breakdown of how the symptoms of facet arthropathy may differ based on different regions of the spine.

Cervical Spine (Neck)

Symptoms of facet arthropathy in the cervical spine include:
  • Neck pain: Pain is felt in the neck region. It may radiate to the shoulders or upper back.
  • Headaches: Facet arthropathy in the cervical spine can cause headaches.

Thoracic Spine (Upper/Mid-Back)

Symptoms of facet arthropathy in the thoracic spine include:
  • Mid-back pain: Pain is usually localized in the upper or mid-back region.
  • Restricted mobility: The affected facet joints may restrict upper body movement.

Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)

Symptoms of facet arthropathy in the lumbar spine include:
  • Lower back pain: Pain is commonly experienced in the lower back region. This can present as dull aches or stiffness.
  • Buttock and hip pain: The pain may radiate to the buttocks and hips.
  • Leg pain: If nerve compression occurs due to facet arthropathy, it can lead to radiating leg pain.
  • Muscle weakness or numbness: Nerve compression can cause numbness in the legs or feet.

Important Note About Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy in Different Spinal Areas

These symptoms may not always be exclusive to the specific region. Facet arthropathy in the lumbar spine can cause pain that radiates to the hips or thighs. 


Additionally, symptoms can vary from person to person. Not everyone may experience the same symptoms.

Non-Specific Symptoms Indicative of Facet Arthropathy

Symptoms of facet arthropathy manifest as localized pain in the affected spinal area. But, some non-specific symptoms may be present alongside facet arthropathy.


These symptoms are not exclusive to facet arthropathy. 

Muscle Stiffness

Facet arthropathy can lead to muscle stiffness in the surrounding area. This can occur as the body tries to protect the affected facet joints. This stiffness can contribute to limited mobility and discomfort.

Muscle Spasms

In response to the degenerative changes, the surrounding muscles may experience spasms. These spasms can cause extra pain and discomfort.

Pain with Prolonged Sitting or Standing

Facet arthropathy pain can be aggravated by prolonged periods of sitting or standing. These actions put pressure on the affected joints. 


Changing positions or movements may provide temporary relief.

Pain During Certain Movements

Facet arthropathy pain is triggered by specific movements that stress the affected joints. These movements may include:
  • Bending backward
  • Twisting
  • Arching the spine

Morning Stiffness

Those with facet arthropathy may experience stiffness and pain after prolonged rest periods.


This can improve with movement and activity throughout the day.

Fatigue and Loss of Appetite

Fatigue and loss of appetite aren’t specific symptoms of facet arthropathy. These symptoms are more associated with other health conditions or underlying systemic issues.


These non-specific symptoms can also be present in other spinal conditions. A proper medical evaluation is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

How Quickly Do Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy Develop?

The development of symptoms of facet arthropathy can vary from person to person. It generally occurs over time as the facet joints undergo degenerative changes. 

Onset and Progression of Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy

The onset and progression of symptoms can depend on various factors. These include:
  • The extent of joint degeneration
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Any underlying conditions
Individuals may sometimes experience mild or intermittent symptoms that worsen over time. Others may have a sudden onset of symptoms due to a specific trigger. This can include an injury or excessive strain on the facet joints.

Important Note About Facet Arthropathy

Facet arthropathy is a chronic condition. Symptoms worsen as the degeneration progresses, but the rate of progression is variable. 


Patients may experience slow and gradual deterioration. In comparison, others may experience more rapid changes in their symptoms.


If you suspect you may have facet arthropathy, consult with a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your symptoms and provide appropriate treatment options.

What is the Correlation Between Symptom Onset and Disease Severity of Facet Arthropathy?

There can be a correlation between symptom onset and the severity of facet arthropathy. But, it is not always a direct relationship. 

What is the Severity of the Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy?

Severity refers to the extent of degenerative changes in the facet joints. This includes:
  • Joint inflammation
  • Cartilage deterioration
  • Bone spur formation
  • Potential nerve compression
Individuals may experience symptoms early on, even if the degenerative changes are mild. This can be due to factors such as individual sensitivity to pain and differences in biomechanics.

Degenerative Changes Without Symptoms

Others may have degenerative changes in their facet joints without experiencing apparent symptoms. This can occur when the degeneration progresses slowly. In such cases, symptoms may only become evident as the condition worsens.

Factors that Influence Symptom Onset and Severity

Various factors can influence the correlation between symptom onset and disease severity. The presence and severity of symptoms do not always align with the imaging findings. 


It’s essential to consider the diagnosis when evaluating the severity of facet arthropathy.


A healthcare professional can review imaging results to assess your symptoms. This is to understand the correlation between your symptoms and the severity of your facet arthropathy.

What are the Potential Complications of Facet Arthropathy?

If left untreated, facet arthropathy can lead to various complications. Below are some of the potential complications of untreated facet arthropathy.

Chronic Pain

Facet arthropathy leads to chronic pain. The pain can become more persistent, severe, and debilitating if left untreated. This can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.

Limited Mobility and Flexibility

The degenerative changes in the facet joints can lead to restricted movement. If untreated, this can result in further loss of mobility. This will make it difficult to perform daily activities and affect overall function.

Nerve Compression and Radiculopathy

Facet arthropathy can compress nearby nerves and can cause radiculopathy. This can result in:
  • Radiating pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle weakness

Spinal Instability

As facet arthropathy progresses, it can contribute to spinal instability. This can occur if there is significant joint degeneration and ligament laxity. 


Spinal instability can lead to abnormal spinal movements and increased pain. There is also an increased risk of other spinal conditions, such as spondylolisthesis.

Reduced Quality of Life

Chronic pain and limited mobility can impact a person’s quality of life. Symptoms of facet arthropathy can affect daily functioning.

Importance of Seeking Medical Care

It is crucial to seek appropriate medical care and treatment for facet arthropathy. This will:
  • Prevent the progression of symptoms
  • Manage pain
  • Address potential complications
Treatment options include conservative measures like physical therapy, pain management techniques, and medications. In some cases, surgical interventions to ease symptoms and restore function.

How Can Patients Manage Complications of Facet Arthropathy?

Patients can manage the complications of facet arthropathy in various ways. This includes treatment to reduce pain, improve mobility, and address associated complications. 


Here are some common management strategies.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce pain and inflammation associated with facet arthropathy.5


Stronger pain medications or muscle relaxants can manage severe pain or muscle spasms.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can develop a personalized exercise and stretching program. This can:
  • Improve flexibility
  • Strengthen the muscles supporting the spine
  • Enhance posture
Physical therapy may also include techniques like manual therapy, heat or cold therapy. These therapies can ease pain and improve function.

Pain Management Techniques

Various pain management approaches can be utilized to treat symptoms of facet arthropathy. This includes:
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • Acupuncture
  • Therapeutic massage
These techniques aim to provide pain relief and promote relaxation.

Spinal Injections

In some cases, corticosteroid injections are administered into the facet joints. This will help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. 


These injections are performed under guidance to ensure accurate needle placement.

Assistive Devices

Patients are advised to use supportive devices like braces or orthotics. They can stabilize and reduce pain during certain activities or movements.

Lifestyle Modifications

Incorporating healthy lifestyle habits can help manage facet arthropathy. Maintaining healthy habits can reduce stress on the facet joints.

Surgical Intervention

In cases where conservative treatments are ineffective surgical options are considered. Surgical procedures can address the underlying pathology and provide long-term relief.

Importance of Working with Healthcare Professionals

Patients need to work with healthcare professionals or physical therapists. This will help them develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to their conditions.


Regular follow-up appointments with the healthcare team can help them track progress. They can also adjust treatments if necessary and address emerging complications.

Alternative Therapies for Treating Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy

Individuals with facet arthropathy often seek alternative therapies. These therapies can complement conventional treatments and reduce symptoms. 


Some alternative therapies have shown promise in managing symptoms of facet arthropathy.

Important Note About Alternative Therapies

It’s important to note that these therapies may not be suitable for everyone. It’s advisable to consult with a professional before incorporating them into your treatment. 


Here are some alternative therapies considered for managing symptoms of facet arthropathy.

Massage Therapy

Therapeutic massage can help:
  • Relax muscles
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Reduce muscle tension
It may temporarily relieve symptoms of facet arthropathy and promote relaxation and well-being.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care focuses on diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders, including spinal conditions. Chiropractors use manual manipulation techniques to address joint restrictions or misalignments.6


For facet arthropathy, chiropractic adjustments may aim to improve joint mobility. It can also reduce pain and enhance spinal function. 


While patients reported relief from chiropractic care, the study for its effectiveness is limited. The practice is also controversial in some medical circles.


Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow.7


Some individuals find that acupuncture helps ease pain and promotes balance and well-being. But, the evidence supporting its effectiveness, specifically for facet arthropathy, is limited.

Herbal Remedies and Supplements

Certain herbal remedies, such as turmeric and ginger, are believed to be anti-inflammatory. While scientific evidence is limited, some patients find relief from these natural remedies. 


It’s essential to consult with a professional before starting any herbal remedies. This is because they may interact with medications or have potential side effects.

Mind-Body Practices

Techniques such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation can reduce stress. They manage symptoms of facet arthropathy symptoms by enhancing physical and mental health.

Heat or Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation. Heat therapy can help improve blood flow, while cold therapy can reduce swelling. 


Using heat or cold therapy and following appropriate guidelines is important.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS involves using a small device that delivers electrical impulses to the affected area. This can help reduce pain by interfering with pain signals. TENS is generally considered safe and may relieve facet arthropathy pain.

Each Person’s Experience Varies

Remember that patients’ experiences with alternative therapies can vary. What works for one person may not work for another. 


Discussing these alternative therapies with a healthcare professional is essential. They can ensure safe integration into your treatment plan and track your progress.

Diagnosis of Psychogenic pain

Treatment for Symptoms of Facet Arthropathy at J. Flowers Health Institute

Chronic pain management requires a personalized approach. Professionals can develop a treatment plan based on the characteristics of your pain. 


Poorly managed chronic pain can lead to various complications. It may cause:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Limited mobility
  • Reduced physical fitness

Importance of Getting Quality Care

Seeking help for chronic pain can lead to effective pain management strategies. This includes treatment that:

  • Reduces symptoms
  • Improves mobility
  • Enhances well-being

J. Flowers Health Institute can help you manage your symptoms of facet arthropathy.

What We Do

At J. Flowers Health Institute, we understand the importance of a person’s physical health. 


Because of this, we specialize in pain management and provide emotional support throughout your journey. We help you develop coping strategies and address any psychological aspects of pain.


Our knowledgeable and kind J. Flowers Health Institute team also connects you with additional resources or support networks.

Contact J. Flowers Health Institute Today

Chronic pain should not be ignored or accepted as a normal part of life. By seeking help, you take the first step toward understanding and managing your pain. You can also improve your quality of life and find relief from chronic pain.


Reach out to J. Flowers Health Institute today for more information about our treatment options.