Low back pain is a common presenting complaint to sports medicine providers. The lumbar spine is a complex anatomic structure with multiple potential pain generators. Epidemiologic studies have shown that the intervertebral disc is the most common pain generator in all patients with low back pain. The facet joints may account for 15%-40% of low back pain. It can be challenging at times to establish a firm diagnosis of facet pain. Facet pain can have different presentations, and pain emanating from other lumbopelvic structures can present similarly as facet joint pain. This article reviews the anatomy and biomechanics of the lumbar facet joints, presenting symptoms and physical examination findings seen with facet pain. We also will discuss diagnostic and treatment paradigms that are helpful to the clinician treating low back pain in athletes.
University of Utah Orthopaedic Center, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Salt Lake City, UT
Address for correspondence: Zach M. Beresford, M.D., Clinical Instructor, University of Utah Orthopaedic Center, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 590 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City, UT 84108 (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).