Facet Joint Disease: Understanding the Causes and Treatment Options

Also known as spinal osteoarthritis, facet joint disease is a degenerative joint disease that can cause a significant amount of back and neck pain. The cartilage inside the facet joint (joints between the spine bone) can break down and cause inflammation, triggering the pain signals in nerve endings and resulting in stiffness and pain.

What are the Causes of Facet Joint Disease?

As the name suggests, degenerative joint disease is the result of degenerative cell changes in the bones which can become increasingly worse over time. Facet joint disease, in particular, can be caused by numerous factors over a period of time.


As time goes by, our bodies age and changes in organs, cells, and tissue occur. The gel-like cushions between each vertebra in the spine become thinner and the vertebrae may lose some of their mineral content. This results in thinning of the bone. Joints also become stiff, less flexible, and can become inflamed. When cartilage is worn down and the joints become swollen and painful due to osteoarthritis, facet joint disease occurs.

Pressure overload on facet joints

Pressure on the facet joints can also be caused by aging. When degeneration of the intervertebral discs in your spine occurs, they begin to wear down and collapse on one another. This results in the narrowing of the space between the vertebrae. When this happens, it affects the way the facet joints line up, placing too much pressure on articular cartilage surfaces. Damage is caused to the articular surface and the cartilage begins to wear down.


Unfortunately, injury to the neck can also cause facet joint disease. When experiencing whiplash, during a car accident, for instance, the facets can be torn from each other. This may result in injury to the cartilage, resulting in severe pain and inflammation. In severe cases, the facet joints can also be dislocated, which requires surgery for proper repositioning.

Treatment Options for Facet Joint Disease

Your neurosurgeon may suggest several non-invasive surgery options. Consult with your physician about the treatment options for your specific diagnosis.

If you are looking for a neurosurgeon in the Hudson Valley region of New York State, get the personalized care you desire from the board-certified neurosurgeons at Hudson Valley Brain & Spine Surgery.