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Physical Therapy for Facet Arthropathy – Information, Exercises, and More

Facet arthropathy can be painful and limiting.

But here’s the good news: there are treatments available that can help improve your pain and symptoms, including physical therapy. 

In this guide, we will discuss treatment options available to you and explain how physical therapy can help increase the quality of your life.


What is Facet Arthropathy?

Each vertebra in the spinal column consist of three joints:

  • One joint that connects the bodies of two vertebrae via an intervertebral disc; and
  • Two facet joints located on each side of the vertebrae that help connect one vertebra to the other

The function of facet joints includes:

  • Providing stability and mobility to the spine
  • Restricting excessive movement that could cause damage to the spine

Facet arthropathy is a condition that occurs when arthritis affects these joints. Facet arthropathy can occur anywhere in the spinal column but occurs most commonly in the lumber column, with a prevalence of 37%.

What Causes Facet Arthropathy?

Like most joints in the body, facet joints can be subject to wear and tear, degeneration, and arthritic changes. This can lead to pain, loss of range in motion, pinched nerves, and more.

Common causes of facet arthropathy include: 

  • Joint degeneration caused by wear and tear or age
  • Disc degeneration
  • Compression of the facet joints from extension
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Stress injuries
  • Poor posture
  • Muscle weakness
  • A sedentary lifestyle 
  • And more

Facet Arthropathy Symptoms

Facet arthropathy symptoms can range from mild to severe and may present as other ailments, like disc injuries.

 Common symptoms of facet arthropathy include: 

  • Pain in the neck that may radiate into the shoulder or arms
  • Localized pain and tenderness
  • Muscle spasms and changes in posture
  • Limited range of motion in the neck if cervical vertebrae are affected
  • “Crunching” sounds with the movement of the spine
  • And more

Facet Arthropathy Treatment

Treatment options for facet arthropathy can range from conservative to invasive depending on the severity of arthritis in the joint. 

Some conservative treatment options include: 

  • Medication
  • Braces; and
  • Physical therapy

If conservative treatments do not resolve symptoms, more invasive treatments like vertebral facet joint injections or radiofrequency ablation may be required.


Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation in the joints and reduce pain.


Neck or back braces may be prescribed to help support the spine and reduce stress on the facet joints and surrounding muscles.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help restore joint function by reducing inflammation, improving range of motion, and strengthing the surrounding muscles.

Vertebral Facet Joint Injections

A vertebral facet joint injection may be needed if conservative treatments have not improved symptoms. This includes injecting a corticosteroid into the affected facet joints.

Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is the next step when conservative treatments and vertebral facet joint injections do not provide any symptom relief. 

This involves inserting a radiofrequency needle into the affected facet joints to create a heat lesion. This procedure prevents surrounding nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.

Facet Arthropathy Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?


Physical therapy is a great, non-invasive treatment for facet arthropathy. 

It is important that physical therapy for facet arthropathy is guided by a skilled physical therapist to ensure that treatment does not aggravate your condition. 

At In Motion O.C., we have helped hundreds of patients dealing with facet arthropathy. Our physical therapists are highly trained and have a personalized approach to each patient for the best treatment results.

Physical Therapy Facet Arthropathy Exercises

Note: It is important to only attempt physical therapy exercises for facet arthropathy under the supervision and guidance of a Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Physical therapy for facet arthropathy must be executed properly to help provide symptom relief without aggravating the arthritic joints.

In addition to physical therapy exercises, education is a key component in facet arthropathy treatment. A physical therapist can educate you on lifestyle changes and how to improve your posture to help alleviate some of your symptoms and pain.

Let’s discuss some physical therapy exercises for facet arthropathy that may be included in your treatment plan.

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy is often the first step in physical therapy treatment for facet arthropathy. Manual therapy involves soft tissue massage, gentle stretching, and joint mobilization to help:

  • Improve joint alignment
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve range of motion; and
  • Relieve pain

Gentle Stretching Exercises

Once manual therapy has been implemented, gentle stretching may be slowly introduced. 

Gentle stretching exercises can help:

  • Regain range of motion
  • Stabilize joints; and
  • Reduce stress placed on the facet joints and surrounding discs

Strengthening and Stabilization Exercises

Once gentle stretching exercises have been implemented, your physical therapist may incorporate strengthening and stabilization exercises to help strengthen the surrounding muscles and provide joint support.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Facet Arthropathy

Start your journey to relief from your facet arthropathy today with physical therapy. 

Our physical therapists are ready to create a personalized treatment plan for your facet arthropathy so you can experience relief from your symptoms and get back to doing the things you love pain-free.

Contact us today to schedule a free screening at our Irvine, Fountain Valley, or Hungtington Beach physical therapy clinic.

In Motion O.C.