15 Feb What is facet lock?
The facet joints are small, cartilage-lined joints that form between two adjacent vertebrae (bones) in the spinal column. They can be found on either side of the spine and are responsible for its range of mobility. The cervical facet joints are found below the skull in the neck while lumbar facet joints, with the greatest range of motion, are found in the lower spine. They allow for the flexion, extension and rotation of the spinal column, enabling us to move our necks around from side to side and bend our spines both backwards and forwards.
If the facet joints are in a good condition, one should not experience any discomfort with these movements. However, these joints can cause pain and irritation by developed bone spurs in the spinal column, worn out cartilage, or injury and trauma to the spine.
Facet lock is a condition which restricts mobility and occurs when one facet joint on either side of the vertebra slips over the joint above it. The dislocation can be caused by simple movements such as bending or twisting incorrectly. Muscle weakness in areas surrounding the spine and previous injuries can increase your risk of developing facet lock.
Common symptoms of facet lock include:
- Inability to move back to your starting position
- Referred or radiating pain away from the joint
- Muscle spasms on the same or opposite side
- Difficulty stretching
- Difficulty moving in any direction
It should be noted that facet lock rarely occurs, but when it does, it is quite simple to diagnose and treat by one’s doctor or physical therapist. The condition is treated manually by using gentle manipulation techniques to “unlock” or the release the joint. Completing physical exercises prescribed by your therapist is also necessary to restore your range of motion that was affected by the lock joint, build muscle strength and help prevent the joint from locking again in the future.
Osteopathy is a non-medicinal treatment option for facet lock. As musculoskeletal specialists, osteopaths are trained to treat many ailments of the joints, muscles or tendons given their extensive knowledge of orthopaedics, neurology and the human anatomy. A consultation will commence with the taking of a detailed case history and then proceeded with a thorough assessment of the affected area(s). Once the examination is complete, treatment will include the use of manual techniques such as soft tissue release, gentle mobilisation and decompression of the affected area. Postural correction may also be required. Osteopathy can be used safely alongside treatment prescribed by your GP or physiotherapist.
At OsteoVision, our team of specialists are readily available to assist you and offer advice. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you wish to discuss your symptoms, book an appointment or simply require more information about this condition.
Call: 03303 904 300
You can also book an appointment online at www.osteovision.life
Full Circle Osteopathy. 2021. Facet lock — Full Circle Osteopathy. [online] Available at:
Sperling Medical Group. 2018. Locked facet joints are easy to diagnose and treat – Sperling Medical Group. [online] Available at: