Facet Joints of the Spine: Structure-Function Relationships, Problems and Treatments, and the Potential for Regeneration

Siobhan A. O'Leary, Nikolaos K. Paschos, Jarrett M. Link, Eric O. Klineberg, Jerry C. Hu, Kyriacos A. Athanasiou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Scopus citations


The zygapophysial joint, a diarthrodial joint commonly referred to as the facet joint, plays a pivotal role in back pain, a condition that has been a leading cause of global disability since 1990. Along with the intervertebral disc, the facet joint supports spinal motion and aids in spinal stability. Highly susceptible to early development of osteoarthritis, the facet is responsible for a significant amount of pain in the low-back, mid-back, and neck regions. Current noninvasive treatments cannot offer long-term pain relief, while invasive treatments can relieve pain but fail to preserve joint functionality. This review presents an overview of the facet in terms of its anatomy, functional properties, problems, and current management strategies. Furthermore, this review introduces the potential for regeneration of the facet and particular engineering strategies that could be employed as a long-term treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-170
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Biomedical Engineering
StatePublished - Jun 4 2018
Externally publishedYes



  • biomechanics
  • facet joint
  • osteoarthritis
  • spinal stenosis
  • tissue engineering
  • zygapophysial joint

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Biomedical Engineering

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