Facet Arthritis or Arthropathy

This is another term you may see mentioned in your MRI report. The facet joints are small joints in the back of your spine that, together with the discs, help each segment of your spine move. The disc moves up front and the facet joints move in the back. Like any joint in your body, you can develop arthritis, (arthropathy means a pathological condition of a joint) in these small joints and it can be painful.


Sometimes the pain can radiate into you buttocks, upper leg or outer hip but not usually down your leg below the knee. If you have pain below your knee you may have a disc herniation or spinal stenosis. These joints may become arthritic just with age and disc degeneration can also contribute by producing abnormal motion at that segment.


It is rare to operate for this problem alone. Non-operative measures can usually bring the symptoms under control. If many levels of the spine are affected and there is disc degeneration and nerve involvement with leg symptoms in addition to back pain then surgery would be considered.