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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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

  • Author(s): O'Leary, SA
  • Paschos, NK
  • Link, JM
  • Klineberg, EO
  • Hu, JC
  • Athanasiou, KA
  • et al.

© 2018 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved. 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.

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