A cervical facet joint is a joint that exists on the vertebrae in the neck. Technically, there are four joint surfaces on each vertebra – a left-and-right set on the top, and a left-and-right set on the bottom. In the cervical (upper) area of the spine, facet joints allow the flexibility and twisting motions of the neck, while also ensuring the neck is stable enough to support the weight of the head.
Facet joints face upward and downward, allowing each vertebra to interlock with the adjacent vertebrae. In essence, facet joints act like sturdy hinges, and along with the intervertebral discs, keep the vertebrae connected comfortably.
As with any joint in the body, a cervical facet joint is susceptible to osteoarthritis and other degenerative conditions that can lead to neck pain, stiffness, or soreness. Commonly known as facet disease or facet arthritis, deterioration can be spurred on by injury, or may simply be a side-effect of aging.
Other cervical facet joint problems include:
- The presence of bone spurs or other tissue build up
- Facet hypertrophy (enlargement of the joints)
- Fracture or other injury
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Pinched nerves in the neck
Treatment of abnormalities in one of the seven vertebrae in the cervical spine (C1-C7 facet joints) is usually managed non-surgically, with physical therapy, stretching, pain medication, hot and cold compresses, and other conservative treatments. In the event that a patient still doesn’t find relief from their facet joint disorder, neck surgery may be discussed.
As a minimally invasive alternative to open neck surgery, Laser Spine Institute (LSI) offers a procedure known as a facet thermal ablation. In this outpatient procedure, a surgeon uses a gentle laser to clean the facet joint and help the patient regain comfortable motion.
The cervical facet joint sets in the neck are extremely important to maintaining an active lifestyle, so should facet deterioration be responsible for your neck pain, let Laser Spine Institute help. Our award-winning team is standing by to answer all of your questions and to offer a free review of your MRI or CT scan, so contact us today.