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  • 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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