Facet arthropathy is arthritis that affects the facet joints of the spine, according to arthritis and joint conditions expert Carol Eustice for About.com. The facet joints connect the vertebrae to one another in a column. Each vertebra has two facet joints, one on either side of the spinal column.
Facet arthropathy most commonly occurs in the lumbar spine and is one of the chief causes of low back pain, explains NYU Langone Medical Center. However, it can occur at any level of the spine. Symptoms include pain that radiates down to the buttocks and upper thighs. Stiffness and decreased mobility can also be a problem.
Cartilage deterioration is the main cause of facet arthropathy, according to HowStuffWorks. Over time, wear and tear causes the cartilage to thin, resulting in the bones rubbing together. This causes inflammation and pain. Trauma, obesity, physical inactivity and aging are additional risk factors, notes NYU Langone Medical Center.
Conservative treatment for facet arthropathy includes the use of over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription muscle relaxers and corticosteroids, states Eustice. Traction, strengthening exercises, aerobic activity and spinal manipulation are other options. If these treatments fail, steroid or anesthetic injections into the joints; nerve ablation using electrical current; and surgical interventions are options.