• A facet joint is also referred to as an apophyseal joint or a zygopophyseal joint.

  • There is a facet joint either side of each vertebral level of the spine.  It locks one level of the spine to the level above.

  • A facet joint is surrounded by a joint capsule, and there is cartilage within the joint.  The joint can be sprained, locked, stiff, or degenerative.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain and stiffness on one side of the lumbar spine

  • Aggravated particularly on extension

  • Reduced range of movement (in one direction)

What Causes It?

  • Poor posture

  • Incorrect loading biomechanics

  • Muscle imbalance

  • Work or sport which is involves repetitive loading or prolonged postures

  • Associated disc pathology

How to Self Manage

  • R.I.C.E. protocol

  • After 48 hours and with chronic cases, heat is useful to reduce pain and spasm

  • Return to pain free normal daily activities and movements when possible


  • If conservative management is unsuccessful then pain reduction may be achieved with a corticosteroid or anaesthetic injection.

How Physio Helps

  • Assessment to identify why a facet joint is being loaded and is locking

  • Joint  mobilisation

  • Joint manipulation

  • Prescription of exercises to mobilise and unlock the facet joint

  • Massage to release tight surrounding muscles

  • Electrotherapy

  • Acupuncture

  • Core stability exercises including Pilates

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Sammy Margo Physiotherapy

444 Finchley Road



Email: physiophysio@hotmail.com

Tel: ​020 7435 4910​​​
Fax: 020 7435 0461

Web: sammymargophysiotherapy.com


Disclaimer: Information made available by AskPhysio (Sammy Margo Physiotherapy) is provided for guidance only and should not be considered as medical recommendations or advice.  AskPhysio is not responsible for errors or omissions in the information. Please consider what the best options for your healthcare are, based on the urgency of your condition and nature of your condition. Please consult a GP or Healthcare Specialist to discuss any specific concerns that exist prior to using the information provided.