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  • Adam R Whatley Osteopath

Facet Irritation/Inflammation

Updated: Mar 22


Each segment of your spine has two joints either side, these are the facet joints. These joint register and allow for movement. The facet joints are subject to constant, repetitive motion, and can become worn or irritated as a result. Also, as the discs begin to reduce in size through normal age-related degenerative changes, this then also puts added stresses and strains on our facet joints. Reduced disc high causes increased facet compression. This can then result in friction, that then often results in irritation, inflammation, pain, and facet degenerative changes over time.

Facet Irritation / Inflammation. Dynamic Osteopaths Solihull

If your facet joints become inflamed and can cause pain, soreness and stiffness. Patients often report increased pain with extension or prolonged periods of inactivity like sitting or standing too long. Changing positions often improves pain. Facet irritation may feel worse in the morning and improve after moving around as the day progresses. However, for those who work sitting all day with poor posture, they may experience pain throughout the day.


Facet irritation can be caused by trauma, such as a whiplash injury of the neck. Poor postures can also overload spinal tissues, including the facet joints, and cause inflammation of these joints. More commonly, degenerative changes in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine can lead to abnormal stress and strain. This results in increased loads on the facet joints.


- Pain with extension

- Pain on rotation

- Pain on bending to the side

- Pain on deep inhalation

- Lower back pain that radiates into the buttocks, pelvic area, or thighs

- Neck pain that radiates into the shoulders, arms, or head

Sometimes, if inflammation is high this can causes irritation of local nerve roots, which can cause radiating pain.


Most cases of facet irritation will often heal over a short period of time with the correct treatment and advice. Conservative treatment is often sufficient for healing of most cases of facet injuries.

With degenerative wear and tear or facet joint arthritis (facet spondyloarthrosis), the spine becomes very stiff and restricted. Concentrated spinal mobilisations performed by your osteopath are often very effected at reducing pain and restoring mobility.

  • The goal of conservative treatment is to provide pain relief, restore functional mobility as soon as possible with the long term goal of working preventaitive of reoccurrence of facet irritation.

  • Facet injuries are relative to neck also. Any facets the whole way through the spine can be irritated.

  • ​Conservative treatment sometimes includes pain medications or NSAIDs like ibuprofen, naproxen alongside osteopathic treatment and physical therapy. Also, preventative exercise.

  • ​Manual therapy (osteopathy), physical therapy and acupuncture.

Exercises For Facet Irritation

It is important to stay 'relatively' active alongside appropriate rest for healing of a facet irritation. Our facet joints respond to movement and mobility. This being said, it is very important to establish the extent of the damage caused initially. Dependant on the extent of the injury, will determine how much you can do to start with.

Only if advised to do so, when improvements are being made, it is important to do some low impact exercises under the guidance of your osteopath, such as:

  • Gentle walking

  • Lying knee hugs (single)

  • Gentle active mobility exercise, with gradual progression

Facet joint irritation treatment. Dynamic Osteopaths Solihull

General Exercises For Facet Joint Irritation

Spinal exercises should focus on three key areas:

1) strengthening

2) stretching

3) aerobic conditioning

Dynamic core conditioning can provide pain relief because it will support the spine, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine with less chance of injury or damage.

Further specific exercises (below) can be adopted when tolerated


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