Cervical Facet Syndrome

The vertebrae of the spine are stacked on top of each other, providing strength and stability with in the body. On each side of every vertebrae are small joints known as facet joints; facet joints in the upper, or neck region, of the spine are called cervical facet joints.

Pain occurring in the cervical facet joints is most often the result of inflammation caused by the degeneration of cartilage, increased friction between vertebrae, and as a result of bone spurs that have formed in and around the joint. Facet syndrome, or facet pain, can occur anywhere in the spine; the condition, when occurring in the neck or cervical region of the spine, is commonly known as cervical facet syndrome.

Causes of Cervical Facet Syndrome

Cervical facet syndrome is one of the most commonly reported recurrent neck problems; left untreated, cervical facet pain can result in serious and painful symptoms that result in disabling conditions.

Generally attributed to the natural aging process and normal “wear and tear” on the joints in the neck, cervical facet syndrome can also be caused by injuries occurring in the joints.

Other causes that result in cervical facet syndrome include:

  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Cervical discs
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone spurs
  • Neck trauma, including whiplash


Symptoms related to cervical facet joint problems typically occur in and around the area of the affected facet joint, and include:


Intermittent and unpredictable episodes of pain and discomfort that can occur on occasion, including as often as a couple times a month or as infrequently as a few times a year.


Tenderness around the inflamed area.


Reduced flexibility in the muscles around the inflamed cervical joint.


Discomfort and pain in the neck while moving the head forward, backwards, and side to side


Pain associated with cervical facet syndrome may also radiate sensations of pain, tingling, or discomfort into the, shoulders and upper back area


Cervical facet syndrome is easily diagnosed by a medical professional. After completing a physical examination and reviewing a patient’s medical history, a doctor suspecting this condition will administer a diagnostic facet injection, which numbs the area in and around the facet joint. Pain that goes away after this injection is often the conclusive indicator supporting the diagnosis of cervical facet syndrome.

Possible Treatments

Treatment of cervical facet syndrome depends on the severity of the pain and discomfort associated with the condition. In most cases, treatment will start with non-surgical options designed to manage and alleviate pain while the joint heals, and includes:

Rest to alleviate symptoms
Cold and heat therapy to reduce inflammation and soothe muscle and joint pain
OTC medications, including ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Physical therapy to assist with increasing strength and flexibility in the muscles located around the cervical facets.
Prescription medication, including short-term prescriptions of narcotics to block pain receptors and muscle relaxants to calm and prevent muscle spasms.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which used heat from a small needle to create tiny incisions in the nerves located in the affected area, preventing the nerves from transmitting signals of pain to the brain.
Dr.Raju Mantena
Dr. Raju Mantena is an anesthesiologist and pain specialist based in the Houston area and has over 15 years of medical experience which he relies upon each day to successfully treat his patients’ acute and chronic pain.

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