Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Prevalence of facet joint pain in chronic spinal pain of cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions

Laxmaiah Manchikanti1*, Mark V Boswell2, Vijay Singh3, Vidyasagar Pampati1, Kim S Damron1 and Carla D Beyer1

Author Affiliations

1 Pain Management Center of Paducah, 2831 Lone Oak Road, Paducah, Kentucky, USA

2 Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology, University Hospitals of Cleveland, 11100 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

3 Pain Diagnostics Associates, 1601 Roosevelt Road, Niagara, Wisconsin, USA

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2004, 5:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-5-15

Published: 28 May 2004



Facet joints are a clinically important source of chronic cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine pain. The purpose of this study was to systematically evaluate the prevalence of facet joint pain by spinal region in patients with chronic spine pain referred to an interventional pain management practice.


Five hundred consecutive patients with chronic, non-specific spine pain were evaluated. The prevalence of facet joint pain was determined using controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks (1% lidocaine or 1% lidocaine followed by 0.25% bupivacaine), in accordance with the criteria established by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). The study was performed in the United States in a non-university based ambulatory interventional pain management setting.


The prevalence of facet joint pain in patients with chronic cervical spine pain was 55% 5(95% CI, 49% – 61%), with thoracic spine pain was 42% (95% CI, 30% – 53%), and in with lumbar spine pain was 31% (95% CI, 27% – 36%). The false-positive rate with single blocks with lidocaine was 63% (95% CI, 54% – 72%) in the cervical spine, 55% (95% CI, 39% – 78%) in the thoracic spine, and 27% (95% CI, 22% – 32%) in the lumbar spine.


This study demonstrated that in an interventional pain management setting, facet joints are clinically important spinal pain generators in a significant proportion of patients with chronic spinal pain. Because these patients typically have failed conservative management, including physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and analgesics, they may benefit from specific interventions designed to manage facet joint pain.