Cervical facet syndrome, or cervical facet disease, is the structural deterioration of one or more of the vertebral facet joints in the cervical segment of the spine in the neck. This type of osteoarthritis is particularly common later in life, and can lead to significant, chronic pain if left untreated. As is the case with most degenerative spine conditions, treatment of cervical facet syndrome is normally first attempted conservatively, with invasive options considered if pain persists.
The Facet Joint
The vertebrae in the neck (with the exception of the first cervical vertebra, C1) are connected to adjacent vertebrae at a synovial, fluid-filled encapsulated joint known as a facet joint. This sliding joint’s structure stabilizes the spine, but also allows for the movement that we require from our neck. In order to provide this needed flexibility, the joint’s articular surfaces are covered by cartilage. This slippery cartilage allows the bones to slide over one another smoothly. Over the years, as a result of regular use and the burden of supporting the weight of the skull, this cartilage gradually wears away, eventually resulting in bone-on-bone contact. Cervical facet syndrome is the term used to describe this condition.
Symptoms and Treatment
This condition can cause a number of symptoms depending on the location and severity of the joint deterioration. Examples include:
- Local pain at the site of the joint
- Soreness or stiffness in the neck
- Limited mobility
- Symptoms radiating into the shoulders and arms
Treatment for cervical facet syndrome is most often first attempted conservatively with noninvasive techniques. This course of treatment is intended to manage the patient’s pain and increase mobility in the joint. Pain medication, stretching exercises, physical therapy, and the application of heat or ice are all effective methods of treatment.
If the patient continues to experience significant pain after all other treatments have been exhausted, spine surgery may be recommended to remove the source of the patient’s pain. To learn more about all of your options for treating cervical facet syndrome with a state-of-the-art endoscopic procedure, contact the neck experts at Laser Spine Institute and schedule a consultation.