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Zygapophysial joint
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A thoracic vertebra. (Superior labeled at top; inferior labeled at bottom.)
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Median sagittal section of two lumbar vertebræ and their ligaments.
Latin articulationes zygapophysiales
MeSH zygapophyseal+joint

A zygapophysial joint (zygapophyseal, or facet joint) is a synovial joint between the superior articular process of one vertebra and the inferior articular process of the vertebra directly above it. There are two facet joints in each spinal motion segment.

The biomechanical function of each pair of facet joints is to guide and limit movement of the spinal motion segment. In the lumbar spine, for example, the zygapophysial joints function to protect the motion segment from anterior shear forces, excessive rotation and flexion. Zygapophyseal joints appear to have little influence on the range of side bending (lateral flexion). These functions can be disrupted by degeneration, dislocation, fracture, injury, instability from trauma, osteoarthritis, and surgery. In the thoracic spine the zygapophysial joints function to restrain the amount of flexion and anterior translation of the corresponding vertebral segment and function to facilitate rotation.

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