Pain Originating from the Lumbar Facet Joints

Maarten van Kleef, Pascal Vanelderen, Steven P. Cohen, Arno Lataster, Jan Van Zundert, Nagy Mekhail

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


Although the existence of a "facet syndrome" had long been questioned, it is now generally accepted as a clinical entity. Depending on the diagnostic criteria, the zygapophysial joints account for between 5% and 15% of cases of chronic, axial low back pain. Most commonly, facetogenic pain is the result of repetitive stress and/or cumulative lowlevel trauma, leading to inflammation and stretching of the joint capsule. The most frequent complaint is axial low back pain with referred pain perceived in the flank, hip, and thigh. No physical examination findings are pathognomonic for diagnosis. The strongest indicator for lumbar facet pain is pain reduction after anesthetic blocks of the rami mediales (medial branches) of the rami dorsales that innervate the facet joints. Because false-positive and, possibly, falsenegative results may occur, results must be interpreted carefully. In patients with injection-confirmed zygapophysial joint pain, procedural interventions can be undertaken in the context of a multidisciplinary, multimodal treatment regimen that includes pharmacotherapy, physical therapy and regular exercise, and, if indicated, psychotherapy. Currently, the "gold standard" for treating facetogenic pain is radiofrequency treatment (1 B+). The evidence supporting intra-articular corticosteroids is limited; hence, this should be reserved for those individuals who do not respond to radiofrequency treatment (2 B1).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEvidence-Based Interventional Pain Medicine
Subtitle of host publicationAccording to Clinical Diagnoses
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9780470671306
StatePublished - Nov 1 2011


  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Low back pain
  • Lumbar facet
  • Radiofrequency treatment
  • Zygapophysial joint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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