An intervertebral joint, also called a facet joint, connects two vertebrae in the spine to allow the vertebrae to hinge. This allows the spine to bend and flex while remaining stable.
This joint is located between each set of vertebrae in the spine. In fact, there are two joints located in each segment. The upper joint is the superior joint, while the lower one is the inferior one. The joints are aligned so that each inferior joint fits into the superior joint of the vertebra directly below it. Both joints are connected by a small bridge known as interarticularis.
Anatomy of Intervertebral Joint
Both superior and inferior intervertebral joints are located at the rear, or posterior, side of the spine. They are covered with cartilage and surrounded by connective tissue. This tissue produces a natural lubricant that allows them to move smoothly against each other.
The location of the intervertebral joints is in each of the three mobile sections of the spine. They can be classified as:
- Cervical intervertebral joints – these joints are located in the cervical (upper) region of the spine
- Thoracic intervertebral joints – these joints are located in the thoracic (middle) region of the spine
- Lumbar intervertebral joints – these are located in the lumbar (lower) region of the spine
Because of the mobility in the neck and lower back, the intervertebral joints in the cervical and lumbar sections undergo more wear than the joints within the thoracic spine.
What Do They Do?
Intervertebral joints make it possible for the spine to move forward and backward. However, they have little influence on the spine’s ability to bend from side to side. The joints can also protect against the potentially damaging motion, such as excessive rotation and flexion.
Because they are responsible for allowing the spine to move they are susceptible to natural deterioration over the years. As a result, osteoarthritis in the facet joints is fairly common in middle-aged and older adults. These conditions can cause inflammation within the damaged intervertebral joint which is located near a series of nerve roots in the spinal canal. If one of these nerve roots becomes compressed from an inflamed joint symptoms of pain and stiffness can develop.
Treatment for Damaged Intervertebral Joint
Patients diagnosed with spinal joint conditions can often find relief from a combination of conservative treatments such as pain medication and stretching, hot/cold therapy, and physical therapy. If weeks or months of nonsurgical treatment do not bring the relief required for regular activity surgery will become an option.
At BEST Health System, we provide minimally invasive spine surgery that can help address intervertebral joint disorders and other spine conditions on an outpatient basis. At BEST Dr. Girton and Dr. Abbott, our board-certified surgeons perform our minimally invasive procedures. Our outpatient procedures are a safer and more effective alternative to traditional open neck or back surgery, offering a lower complication rate and no lengthy recovery to our patients.
Contact our team today to find out if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.