Facet joint osteoarthritis and low back pain in the community-based population

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2008 Nov 1;33(23):2560-5. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e318184ef95.


Study design: Cross-sectional study.

Objective: To evaluate the association between lumbar spine facet joint osteoarthritis (FJ OA) identified by multidetector computed tomography (CT) and low back pain (LBP) in the community-based Framingham Heart Study.

Summary of background data: The association between lumbar FJ OA and LBP remains unclear.

Methods: This study was an ancillary project to the Framingham Heart Study. A sample of 3529 participants of the Framingham Heart Study aged 40 to 80 underwent multidetector CT imaging to assess aortic calcification. One hundred eighty-eight individuals were consecutively enrolled in this ancillary study to assess radiographic features associated with LBP. LBP in the preceding 12 months was evaluated using a self-report questionnaire. FJ OA was evaluated on CT scans using a 4-grade scale. The association between FJ OA and LBP was examined used multiple logistic regression models, while adjusting for gender, age, and BMI.

Results: CT imaging revealed a high prevalence of FJ OA (59.6% of males and 66.7% of females). Prevalence of FJ OA increases with age. By decade, FJ OA was present in 24.0% of <40-years-olds, 44.7% of 40- to 49-years-olds, 74.2% of 50- to 59-years-olds, 89.2% of 60- to 69-year-olds, and 69.2% of >70-years-olds. By spinal level the prevalence of FJ OA was: 15.1% at L2-L3, 30.6% at L3-L4, 45.1% at L4-L5, and 38.2% at L5-S1. In this community-based population, individuals with FJ OA at any spinal level showed no association with LBP.

Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of FJ OA in the community. Prevalence of FJ OA increases with age with the highest prevalence at the L4-L5 spinal level. At low spinal levels women have a higher prevalence of lumbar FJ OA than men. In the present study, we failed to find an association between FJ OA, identified by multidetector CT, at any spinal level and LBP in a community-based study population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / complications*
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Low Back Pain / pathology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis / complications*
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology
  • Osteoarthritis / pathology
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / pathology*