Facet disease of the neck — overview and treatment options

Facet disease of the neck occurs when the joints in the cervical (upper) spine begin to deteriorate. The condition is caused by the natural aging process combined with the stress of supporting the weight of the head and providing movement. In its early stages, facet disease of the neck causes pain, inflammation and stiffness, especially first thing in the morning and after long periods of rest.

As a response to increased friction caused by loss of cartilage and joint fluid, the body can develop bone spurs. Spinal bone spurs can cause additional symptoms of pain, numbness, tingling and muscle weakness in the neck, upper back, shoulders and arms. These symptoms develop when a bone spur has compressed a nerve root or the spinal cord.

Treating facet disease of the neck

Facet disease of the neck is typically first treated with a round of conservative therapies when it is diagnosed by a doctor. This can include:

  • Medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are able to provide many patients with relief. Prescription pain relievers or muscle relaxants may also be recommended in some cases.
  • Hot/cold therapy. Applying a heating pad to the affected area can help to promote circulation and relieve tense muscles, which may be contributing to symptoms. Alternating with a cold compress, like an ice pack, can help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.
  • Lifestyle changes. Losing weight, quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake can all contribute to a healthier spine and may help relieve symptoms of facet disease of the neck.

Laser Spine Institute

If you have exhausted other forms of treatment without finding the relief you need to resume normal activity, your primary care doctor may refer you to a specialist, like an orthopedic surgeon, to discuss the possibility of surgery. Before consenting to a surgical procedure, reach out to Laser Spine Institute to learn more about our minimally invasive spine surgery and our team of board-certified surgeons.+

We offer a no-cost review of your MRI or CT scan* to help you find out if you may be a candidate for one of our outpatient procedures.