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Annu Rev Biomed Eng. 2018 Jun 4;20:145-170. doi: 10.1146/annurev-bioeng-062117-120924. Epub 2018 Mar 1.

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

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Division of Sports Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of California, Irvine, California 92617, USA; email:
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, California 95816, USA.


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.


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

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