About Facet Joint Syndrome

What is it and what are your treatment options?
Anchorage: (907)562-2277
Wasilla: (907) 357-2267
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What is Facet Joint Syndrome?

The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae that perfectly align from the skull to the tailbone. The facet joints are joints between adjacent vertebrae that are responsible for movement. Facet joint syndrome, or facet joint osteoarthritis, occurs when facet joint cartilage becomes worn and torn with age or injury.

Common symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

Symptoms may be experienced in the spine or extremities. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should make an appointment with an Orthopedic Physicians Alaska (OPA) Spine Team Specialist as soon as possible. Facet joint syndrome is a chronic condition—its symptoms can be treated and its progression can be slowed or halted, but it cannot be cured.

Common Causes of Facet Joint Syndrome:

  • Trauma
  • Abnormal postures
  • Degenerative changes in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, which can lead to abnormal stress and strain

When diagnosing a facet joint syndrome, OPA Spine Team Specialists:

  • Obtain a medical history to assess facet joint syndrome risk factors
  • Perform a physical examination to check for symptoms and test spine strength and flexibility
  • X-rays are analyzed to determine the location and severity of osteoarthritis

After an accurate diagnosis is made, a customized treatment plan is prescribed.

Common Treatments:

Nonsurgical treatment options treat mild to moderate facet joint syndrome. Numerous treatment options are usually included in an OPA Spine Team Specialist’s treatment plan:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)

Decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain.

Physical Therapy

  • One of OPA’s onsite physical therapists works with patients to stretch and strengthen spine muscles, tendons, and ligaments.


A back brace to support the spine.


An injection of steroid and anesthetic medications.
Severe facet joint syndrome may require minimally invasive treatment. OPA Spine Team Specialists perform a variety of minimally invasive procedures:

  • Injections. Corticosteroid and anesthesia medications quickly decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Nerve block. Anesthetic medication is injected near an inflamed nerve to stop pain signals to the brain.
  • Rhizotomy. Heat and radio frequency energy deaden nerves that send pain signals to the brain.

If nonsurgical options have not alleviated symptoms, an OPA Spine Team Specialist may discuss with you a procedure known as a facet joint fusion. A facet joint fusion removes arthritic facet joint bone and cartilage and replaces it with bone graft, which later fuses with existing bone. After this minimally invasive procedure, symptoms improve dramatically.

At OPA, our Board-Certified and Fellowship-Trained Spine Specialists, Dr. Mark Flanum, Dr. James Eule, and Dr. Curtis Mina are experts in facet joint syndrome.

To receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan, please make an appointment to see one of our Spine Team Specialists at our offices conveniently located in Anchorage and Wasilla.

Schedule An Appointment

To receive an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan, please make an appointment with one of our Orthopedic Team Specialists at our offices conveniently located in Anchorage and Wasilla, AK.

Anchorage: (907)562-2277
Wasilla: (907) 357-2267

OPA Spine Team

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Dr. James Eule

Orthopedic Spine Specialist

Dr. Mark Flanum

Orthopedic Spine Specialist

Dr. Curtis Mina

Orthopedic Spine Specialist

Sean Taylor, MD

Pain Management

Our Mission

To provide the finest orthopedic surgery and musculoskeletal care in North America, offering general and specialized adult care to all Alaskans and visitors.

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