Facet syndrome is a specific type of osteoarthritis that develops in the facet joints located in the spine. These joints link the vertebrae and allow the spine to bend, twist, and perform other movements. This condition most commonly develops in the cervical (upper) and in the lumbar (lower) spinal regions, but it can also develop in the thoracic (middle) spine as well.
As with many other joints in the body, the facet joints have a smooth, connective tissue known as cartilage that coats the ends of the bones. This cartilage can wear down over time resulting in adjacent bones potentially rubbing together instead of gliding smoothly against each other, creating inflammation within the joint and resulting in pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility in the neck or back.
Sometimes, as bones grind against each other, the body can create bone spurs (osteophytes) in response. These bone spurs can be asymptomatic, but they can also grow large enough to compress or irritate the nerve roots or spinal cord near the facet joints. If this happens, several additional symptoms in the extremities, such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness can develop as a result.