What’s a Facet Joint anyway?

If you’ve ever had neck or back pain that you could pinpoint with your finger or felt a sharp pain in your back when moving, the cause may have been some sort of dysfunction with one or more of the facet joints (often the lumbar facet joints) of your spine. A what now? Although they’re of critical importance, most people have never even heard the term “facet joint”, let alone anything about how to look after them! Lets fix that…


What are the facet joints?

Facet joints are like the “knuckles” of your spine that glide, slide, and stabilize – they add flexibility to your spine so you’re able to bend and twist your back but importantly, they also help to keep you from “over doing” any of those motions (i.e., hyperextending or hyper flexing) – pro tip, many, many non-chronic injuries are the result of these kinds of over-extensions.

Needless to say, ensuring your facet joints are functioning at their best is important to making sure you’re able to move freely – which in turn is critical for maintaining overall health.


Damage to the facet joints

Like everything else in the body our spinal discs also age over time, and it’s our facet joints – often our lumbar facet joints – that take on the extra load. Poor posture, carrying extra weight or even just a hard-working life all put strain on the structure of the spine, and, as you may have guessed, this excess stress and pressure can wear them down.

Typically, this might lead to the development of adhesions, bone spurs, and pain that can all limit our ability to move freely[1].The good news? Targeted spinal adjustments can help break up adhesions in and around your lumbar facet joints, cervical facet joints, and the other joints in your spine to help reduce pain and restore proper motion.


Chiropractic Care for Lumbar Facet Joint pain treatment

As with almost everything related to the spine, one of the most important ways we can look after our facet joints is simply by staying active – part of the problem with injuries or damage to the facet joints is that it can, in turn, make being active difficult, which only exacerbates the problem. For mild discomfort or stiffness associated with the facet joints, movement based therapy such as targets stretching, yoga or perhaps Pilates can be a cheap and easy way to improve things – thankfully, when pain is more severe, or stiffness and discomfort seem to persist no matter wat you do, there’s a wide range of research supporting the use of chiropractic care for the management of adhesions and pain related to the lumbar facet joints in particular.

For your reference, here’s some basic terminology you’ll find helpful when reviewing any such studies:

  • The facet joints are also referred to as “Z” (zygapophyseal) joints.
  • Chiropractic care / adjustments is also referred to as SMT (spinal manipulative therapy).
  • The term “gapping” refers to the physical manipulation or mobilization of the joints.

In just one recent study, researchers set out to understand the effects spinal manipulative therapy and specifically gapping of the “Z” joints can have on the adhesions and pain in the lower back. In other words, they wanted to understand the effects chiropractic adjustments can have on adhesions surrounding the lumbar facet joints and any related low back pain to help evaluate its effectiveness as a facet joint pain treatment option.  Ss it turns out, they did in fact observe that study participants reported both a reduction in pain and a reduction in restricted movement after receiving chiropractic care.[2]


Help for facet joint pain

If you’re experiencing neck or back pain that you can pinpoint with your finger or if you’re living with a sharp pain in your back when moving, there’s a reasonable chance a facet joint problem might be to blame. If you’re slightly older that’s even more the case.

Chiropractic is a natural and drug-free approach to treating facet joint issues, and it’s something we’ve been helping people in the Chelmsford area with for over 20 years. If you’d like to learn more about Chiropractic give us a call and let us see how we can help you!



[1] Facet Joints. Physiopedia. 2022.

[2] Joint Changes Following Spinal Manipulation. JMPT. 2013.


Blog by / July 27, 2022 / Blog

Dr. Paul Irvine is a doctor of chiropractic who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW and in 1996, attained his Master of Chiropractic degree from Macquarie University in Australia. He practised in North Sydney for 5 years before he left Australia to travel and practise in the UK. He joined Complete Chiropractic in 2003 (est 1999) and took over the clinic in 2007