Are My Neck and Back Causing My Headaches?

If you’re experiencing headaches, shoulder aches, pain in your lower back, thighs, or buttocks, you might be suffering from facet joint syndrome.

What Are Facet Joints?

Before we cover fact joint syndrome, let’s go over how facet joints work and why they are so important to spinal health. Facet joints, located between each vertebra, stabilize your back while allowing your spine to bend and twist. Cartilage and a fluid-filled capsule around each joint prevent the vertebrae from touching each other directly so your spine can move in a fluid way.

Pain Has Many Causes

Injury, osteoarthritis, and simple wear can leave these important joints inflamed or damaged causing intense pain. In addition, if the cartilage around a facet joint becomes damaged or wears away, vertebrae can rub against each other, bone-to-bone. Bone spurts can then form along the edge of the joint making movement even more painful.

The Roots of Pain

The spinal nerve roots pass through these joints, so injury, degeneration, or inflammation can spread pain throughout the back and even other parts of the body. If a facet joint in the cervical, or neck, area is affected, you might experience headaches, neck pain, or shoulder pain. If the facet joints in your lower back or lumbar area are affected, you might feel pain across your lower back, through your buttocks, or even your legs.


There are several ways to reduce symptoms. Exercise, and physical therapy can help strengthen muscles and support the areas around affected joints. Good posture encourages the natural curvature of the spine and reduces pressure on the joints themselves. Heat pads and cold pads can be used to increase circulation and reduce inflammation. Also, avoiding long periods of sitting in a car or at a desk can be helpful in reducing symptoms.

Personalized Treatment Plans

Your physiatrist may also use spinal injection as both a diagnostic tool and a treatment. Injecting anti-inflammatory and pain medication directly into the joint relieves discomfort and, when combined with physical therapy, can help restore range of motion. To get a proper diagnosis and to start your personalized treatment plan, see a physiatrist today.