Facet Syndrome and Facet arthropathy – How our Geelong Chiropractors can help

Posted on October 28, 2023 in News

Facet Syndrome and Facet Arthropathy An Overview:

The joints connecting each of your vertebrae are known as facet joints, these are located at the rear of your spine. Facet Syndrome is where the joint becomes inflamed or irritated, restricting healthy/normal movement of the spinal column. Patients will experience pain and reduced movement in the affected area, the pain associated with Facet Syndrome is often sharp when we close the joint and in arthropathies, it can be sore and achy. The lower back facet joints are more susceptible to Facet Syndrome because they are the biggest and take the most weight, however, you can experience it in both the middle back and neck also. 

Facet syndrome affects the joint’s ability to move freely, you may experience an acute flare-up when you do particular activities.  A telltale sign of Facet syndrome is pain that worsens with activities such as bending, twisting and lifting.

Facet joints (pictured below) are the joints that connect all the vertebrae in your back. The Facet joint contains cartilage that acts as a shock absorber for the spine, when functioning optimally the Facet joint assists in free joint movement and mobility. They also provide stability throughout the entire spine.

What causes Facet Syndrome/arthropathy

  • Trauma, through sporting injuries and motor vehicle accidents.
  • Aging and degeneration of the spinal joints.
  • Underlying conditions such as arthritis, or inflammatory conditions.
  • Genetic predisposition, there may be an increased risk of developing facet syndrome with a family history.

At Home Care 

  • Apply heat to the affected area, provided it’s not in an acute flare-up. Prescribed stretches and exercises.
  • It may be necessary to take anti-inflammatory medication if undergoing an acute flare-up.
  • Avoid over-exercising during flare-ups.

How we can help 

Your first step is to have your facet syndrome diagnosed in clinical practice. The examination will involve our Chiropractor physically palpating the spinal joints for pain. We can also assess movement patterns to test for restricted functions. Pain is normally localised to the facet joint affected. In some cases, imaging studies such as X-Ray/MRI and CT can also confirm the diagnosis. Normally a test called Kemp’s test is performed where by we bend the patient back and to one side to see if this brings on pain. 

See below imaging showing signs of Facet arthropathy.

Fig. 2


Fig. 6


Dr Matthew can treat this condition in a multi-pronged approach including the following:

As Facet syndrome affects the mobility and movement of your facet joint, Chiropractic care is a targeted treatment option. Manual adjustments to the affected facet joint can help restore normal movement and function of the joint. When we hear and feel the “Crack” from an adjustment this is typically coming from the Facet joint. 

Spinal traction is a nice way to open up the Facet joints and take pressure and irritation off them even if momentarily. 

Soft Tissue therapies into the musculature and ligaments around the joints can be used in conjunction with manual adjustments to reduce swelling and pain. 

If not responding exclusively to Chiropractic care Dr Matthew would refer you to your GP for prescribed anti-inflammatory and/or steroid medications to assist the healing process. 

As Facet Syndrome is an ongoing condition (due to wear and tear of the spine) the best course of action and pain management is to seek regular chiropractic care, this will ensure that you are regularly getting active movement into the affected joints. During an acute episode, more regular treatment may be required.

We Would typically recommend heat to the affected area/joint as these conditions tend to be chronic in nature.

If you feel like your symptoms might match up with Facet Syndrome reach out to us, we would love to be able to get you on the right path and moving freely again.