Your facet joints are the pair of joints at every level of your spine and provide about 20% of the torsional (twisting) stability in the neck and low back. Facet joints are in almost constant motion and slide on each other with the surfaces coated by a very low friction, moist cartilage. A small sack or capsule surrounds each facet joint and provides the sticky lubricant for the joint called synovial fluid. Each sack has a rich supply of tiny nerve fibres that provide a warning when irritated.
Past injury, poor posture or any abnormal loading of the facet joints due to the body having to adapt to bad habits or poor movement can result in a protective reflex arises when the facets are inflamed. This causes the nearby muscles to go into spasm. This process leads to the facets becoming particularly prone to wear-and-tear or degenerative disease over time, where the facet joints become prematurely worn and the cartilage becomes thin. The underlying bone can react producing bone spurs and an enlargement of the joints. These arthritic changes can produce considerable back or neck pain with movement.
This condition may also be referred to as “facet joint disease” or “facet joint syndrome.” These are some of the most common of all the recurrent, disabling low back and neck problems, and can be very painful and disabling. However, facet joint problems rarely involve the spinal nerves.