Each vertebra in the spinal column has a pair of facet joints, which acts as a flexible multi-directional hinge. The facet joints are located on the spine’s posterior column, or the rear of our backs. Facet arthrosis is a degenerative spinal condition like arthritis in which bony enlargements, called osteophytes or bone spurs, grow and enlarge the facet joints.

Facet arthrosis occurs most commonly in the lumbar spine, or lower back region. These bone spurs may protrude into surrounding tissue, and impinge on nerves emanating from the spinal column. One or both facets may be affected. (The latter condition is termed bilateral facet arthrosis.). Symptoms include pain or tingling sensation, numbness and weakness in the extremities, restricted motion, and pain when walking, termed spinal claudication.

The bone spurs usually develop as the body’s natural repairing mechanism attempts to protect the vertebra from pressure or other stresses. In fact, lumbar facet arthrosis may develop secondarily to lumbar spinal stenosis.

This type of condition may be found in the findings and/or impression portion of a radiology report. Most commonly, they are reported when a person undergoes an MRI of one or more areas of the spine. The regions of the spine most commonly examined are the cervical, thoracic and lumbar. When an MRI of the spine is performed, it is almost always performed without the use of a contrast dye.

However, in a recent patient case, our radiologist reported lumbar facet arthrosis from a prostate MRI exam which examines the pelvic area of a man’s anatomy. Because the lumbar spine area is adjacent to the pelvis and what most non-medical people would call the waist area, this finding was picked up and included in the report to the referring urologist.

DIS always recommends talking to your doctor about all your treatment options.