Dr. Kamal Thapar, MD., PhD., FRCSC., FAANS
1200 Oakleaf Way, Suite A, Altoona, WI 54720

Lumbar Facet Cyst

A lumbar facet cyst is a benign condition that occurs when there is a fluid-filled sac that develops in the lumbar spine. A facet joint is one of the small joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae which help keep the spine stable and at the same time flexible. This condition is also referred to as a synovial cyst. The presence of this fluid-filled sac can lead to narrowing of the spinal canal and compression of the spinal nerves.


– Degenerative disc disease

– Degeneration of the facet joints (joints that connect adjacent vertebrae to one another)


– Back pain

– Leg pain

– Numbness and tingling in lower extremities

– If the cyst is large, this condition may lead to loss of bowel or bladder function


In order to confirm the diagnosis of a lumbar facet cyst and to determine the location and size of the cyst, a combination of imaging studies may be necessary including x-rays, MRI, and CT scans.


Treatment of facet cysts are generally based on the patient’s symptoms. Some individuals with facet cysts have very few or no symptoms at all. In these cases observation and conservative management is the best course of treatment. Conservative management for lumbar facet cysts may include physical therapy, spinal injections, and/or medications. However, if the facet cyst is causing pain or other neurologic deficits such as weakness, surgical intervention may be recommended. If surgical intervention is required, a simple minimal access decompressive procedure such as a laminectomy may be performed to remove the facet cyst. In a small number of patients, especially if the facet cyst formed because of instability, a fusion may be required.