What Is Cervical Facet Syndrome?


Cervical facet syndrome is a type of osteoarthritis that occurs when the structure of one or more of the vertebral facet joints begins to deteriorate. The cervical vertebrae compose the upper segment of the spine and are mostly located near in the neck.


Cervical facets can present with a variety of symptoms, which will depend on the location and the severity of the deterioration. Common symptoms include:

  • localized pain at the join site
  • experiencing soreness and/or stiffness in the neck
  • limited neck mobility
  • headaches

Additionally, some people suffering from the syndrome may experience the growth of bone spurs. Joints are normally protected by cartilage that acts as a cushion between the bones. When this cartilage begins to wear away, the body naturally tries to re-stabilize the joint with small growths, or bone spurs. When bone spurs grow in the spine, they can interfere with the surrounding spinal components. For example, they can limit the already tight space through which nerve roots and the spinal cord pass, placing pressure on them and disrupting normal functioning.


This syndrome can be caused by a variety of events, including blunt trauma or whiplash. Maintaining an abnormal posture is also known the cause the degeneration of the tissue. Most commonly, though, degeneration is associated with the natural aging process, causing stress and strain on the facet joints.

Who is at Risk?

Cervical facets most commonly occurs later in life. If left untreated, it can advance, causing chronic pain.


Treatment procedures typically begin with the most minimally invasive options before resorting to surgery. Doctors may recommend losing weight, being more active, and changing one’s diet. However, taking pain medication, using hot and cold compresses, attending physical therapy sessions, and even wearing a neck brace may be recommended, as well.

When these non-invasive therapies fail to relieve pain and tension, doctors will turn to less conservative measures. Localized steroid injections may be given in order to reduce pain. A radiofrequency neurotomy procedure may also be ordered. This treatment involves using heat from radio waves to jolt the nerves, disrupting their ability to send pain signals.


Patients who do undergo surgical treatment will typically be placed into therapeutic programs once they are nearly pain free. The goals of post-surgical therapy are similar to those sought after in the initial physical therapy sessions, before turning to surgical intervention. Therapists will assist the patient in increasing strength, neuromuscular control, and flexibility through exercises and massage techniques. Once pain has been relieved, patients will typically be advised to continue conducting certain exercises regularly at home in order to maintain their newly acquired strength and flexibility while building spinal endurance.

Call Advanced Spine Center

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of facet joint syndrome, contact Advanced Spine Center today. Led by Dr. Courtney, the skilled team at Advanced Spine Center cares for patients with neck and back pain using a wide array of the most state-of-the-art spine care methods and techniques – from conservative physical therapy and injection therapy – to advanced pain management, as well as surgical intervention. We employ the latest in minimally-invasive spine surgeries, in addition to cutting-edge replacement technology. Incorporating both high tech and high touch, we get our valued patients back to their lives so they can enjoy all the activities they love!

Enjoy an active body and a happier life…at the Advanced Spine Center Contact us today!


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