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Cervical Facet Joint Syndrome

What Is Cervical Facet Syndrome?

Cervical facet syndrome is a condition that plagues the facet joints of the spine. These joints help you to twist and bend, while simultaneously preventing you from going too far or in the wrong direction. The facet joints act as connectors to the spinal bones, providing additional support and greater flexibility.

What Causes Cervical Facet Joint Pain?

Neck pain, whether or not it stems from a neck injury, is the most common medical complaint after back pain. Nearly 55 percent of all facet joint syndrome cases involve the cervical or upper back and neck area of the spine. Only about 10 percent of low back pain sufferers have problems with cervical facet arthropathy or other joint diseases.

Common causes and risk factors of cervical facet joint syndrome include:

  • Elderly people are the most often afflicted, due to a lifetime of daily wear and tear.
  • Suffering from arthritis. Spondylosis and cervical degenerative joint disease are types of arthritis commonly seen in people with cervical facet pain.
  • Trauma from a whiplash injury. Younger people usually develop the cervical facet syndrome due to a serious neck injury, such as from an automobile accident.
  • Workplace stress. If your work involves repetitive movements that put stress on your neck or increases the wear and tear of those joints, you’re more apt to get cervical facet syndrome.

What Are the Cervical Facet Pain Symptoms?

There are certain common symptoms associated with cervical pain symptoms. You may have one or two, but not all. Most sufferers complain of symptoms that include:

  • Pain when you twist or bend
  • Tenderness in your neck and upper torso
  • Limited ability to extend or rotate your neck and shoulders
  • Radiating pain that extends into your shoulders, upper back or middle back area
  • Splitting headaches

The symptoms of cervical facet syndrome often overlap with other spinal conditions. That’s why it’s highly recommended that you need to see a neurosurgeon as soon as possible to correctly diagnose your condition.

You may be suffering from a related condition, such as:

  • Cervical degenerative disc disease
  • A disc herniation
  • A slipped or bulging disc
  • Cervical radiculopathy from a compromised spinal nerve
  • Cervical stenosis

How Do You Diagnose My Condition?

Your NU-Spine doctor in Edison, NJ performs a thorough exam of your neck, shoulder and upper back to assess your flexibility and range of motion. He needs to know if you have a co-occurring condition, like diabetes or hypertension, which can interfere with your cervical facet joint treatment. You may undergo other tests to help your doctor rule out other causes or pinpoint cervical facet syndrome as the diagnosis, such as:

  • X-rays or CT scans
  • An MRI
  • A bone density test

To be certain that you have cervical facet syndrome, your surgeon may suggest cervical facet injections as an additional test. The medicated steroid injection is injected into or near the nerves that run through the facet joints. If you get relief from your cervical facet pain, that confirms that you’re suffering from cervical facet syndrome.

What Cervical Facet Joint Syndrome Treatment Works?

The cervical facet joint surgery is usually the last option your spine surgeon recommends. Non-surgical treatments to try may include:

  • At-home remedies, such as rest, icing and heating
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Cervical facet injections
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections

There are several options for minimally invasive spine surgery available, depending on your condition, such as:

  • Spinal fusion
  • TLIF, which is a fusion procedure using a graft
  • XLIF/X-LIF, another specialized fusion procedure
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