What Is Facet Hypertrophy?

What is facet hypertrophy? Well, if you are reading this you probably already know what it is. For that reason, this article will explain much more than just what is facet hypertrophy. We’ll answer the common questions that people have been asking online. Let’s get started.

If you don’t already know what facet hypertrophy is, here is the definition. Facet hypertrophy is the medical term for the degeneration and enlargement of the facet joints. These are a pair of small joints that are at each level along the back of your spine. Their job is to give support, stability, and flexibility to your spine. When your body is responding to degeneration of your spine, the facet joint can start getting bigger in an effort to counteract the instability caused by degenerative disc disease. If the joint gets too large, it will put pressure on the nearby nerves in the spine. This causes pain to shoot through the nerve.

More About Facet Joint Pain

This condition is generally something that affects older people or those who have back injuries. As we get older, these joints can get worse through normal wear and tear. This doesn’t always become painful, but when it does, it can take over your way of life.

As we said, the joints can get inflamed and cause unwanted pain. But that is not all. The degeneration of the joint cushioning leads to bony surfaces rubbing against each other. The result may be new bone growth and the development of bone spurs. This process is called facet joint syndrome. Eventually, the new bone may become larger than the original. When this happens, your condition progresses from facet joint syndrome to facet joint hypertrophy.

Facet Joint Syndrome

Image That Explains What Is Facet HypertrophyThis is similar to arthritis. The spinal joints (cartilaginous structures designed for weight-bearing) between the vertebrae can change and degenerate over time. Facet joint syndrome occurs when spinal joint cartilage breaks down and becomes inflamed. Here is a detailed description of the facet joint anatomy.

Your spinal cord consists of a series of connected bones called vertebrae. These moveable parts have three sections. One large disc in the front and two joints in the back (facet joints). This is a perfect design that connects the vertebrae and holds the spine firmly together while also allowing it to move, twist, and bend. 

  • Each of these joints is lined with lubricated cartilage surrounded by a joint capsule.
  • The facet joints are where nerve roots pass from the spinal cord to your extremities.

When a facet joint degenerates and becomes inflamed, it loses its ability to bear the weight and pressure of the above vertebrae. Pain signals are then sent to your nerve endings nearby.


The location of your symptoms depends on where the deterioration is happening. Deterioration in your upper back frequently causes neck pain and headaches are common. Facet joint syndrome in the lower back can cause lower back pain and make it difficult to stand, walk, or get up. When facet joints become so swollen and inflamed, facet hypertrophy can occur.


Pain management doctors generally diagnose facet joint syndrome by injecting a combination of anti-inflammatory medication and an anesthetic into the joint; immediate pain relief is the best indicator that the problem is FJS.

Facet Hypertrophy FAQs

Is This A Serious Condition?

Anything that causes pain and discomfort that affects your way of life is serious. This swelling in your joints can increase enough to cause the nerves in your spine to hurt. But that is not all. Because if the situation is not addressed, it can lead to other conditions. These include stenosis and radiculopathy.

How Is It Treated?

The good news is that for a lot of people, conservative treatments are effective in treating this condition. There are a couple of options for treatment for facet hypertrophy.

One method is the injection of steroids into your facet joints. This can provide pain relief for a long time. Other conservative forms of treatment include anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and working to improve posture. If your case is severe, another option may be burning the anterior or posterior spinal nerve roots. This is called rhizotomy.

Does Walking Help?

Slow walking is one of the most helpful forms of aerobic exercise to treat this condition. You could also try doing some stationary cycling and use an elliptical machine. The good thing about these exercises is that they are low-impact. They also allow you to keep your spine slightly flexed which will likely be more comfortable for your joint pain. Try these at a moderate intensity a couple of times a week. However, if they are adding to your pain, remove the exercise from your routine.

Any Other Exercises To Try?

Every body is different and every case of facet hypertrophy is unique. So these exercises may not work for everyone, but here are two things that you can try and see if they work for you. The first one is a commonly used pose in yoga — the child’s pose.

This is a gentle way to give your joints some relief. Plus, it can help reduce your stress and fatigue. Another one you can try is a pelvic tilt lying on the floor. This exercise is great for strengthening and lengthening your lower back. It also tightens your abdominal muscles.

Can A Chiropractor Help?

Yes. Chiropractic care has been proven as a reliable treatment for pain relief from facet hypertrophy. In addition, treatment from a chiropractor can increase your mobility and your flexibility.

What About Massage Therapy?

When you are having pain caused by degeneration and bone rubbing against bone — visiting a massage therapist can help you feel better. It works by reducing osteoarthritis pain through improved circulation along with reduced stress and muscle tension.

How Is This Condition Aggravated?

There are several ways that facet joints can start hurting through accelerated wear and tear. Some examples are a fall, sports injury, and car accident. More traditional wear and tear can come from things like heavy lifting, poor posture, and disc problems.

Find A Pain & Spine Specialist

If you are dealing with — or think you might be dealing with — facet hypertrophy, consult with a physician to help you get pain relief. A pain and spine specialist will use the leading treatments and procedures to help resolve or manage your chronic pain. If you are dealing with this condition, muscle pain, arthritis, or any other discomfort, there is likely treatment that can help. Don’t let unnecessary pain or discomfort hold you back from the things that matter the most!