What is Cervical Facet Syndrome?
Cervical facet syndrome is a cause of pain in the spinal region and more noticeably in the neck. The facet joints are what connect the vertebrae in the spine. They are joints, like others in your body, which allow your spine to move in different directions and because of the constant motion, they can become worn or torn.
When suffering from cervical facet syndrome, the facet joints become inflamed and may bring with it neck pain, soreness and or stiffness. Cervical facet joint pain can be felt in the areas of the base of the skull, upper back and shoulders, mid-back or neck. In many cases, cervical facet syndrome is the cause of trauma due to an injury to the facet joint, due to a degenerative disc disease and also due to stress or strain in your posture.
Individuals suffering from cervical facet syndrome usually feel worse in the morning, due to the resting period. They tend to have stiffness and usually will feel somewhat better after they have been moving around. As the day progresses they tend to be ok as long as they keep moving. However, for those having to work seated all day or work from a computer, they may find they are at a greater risk of experiencing pain throughout the day. Sufferers of cervical facet syndrome have a hard time pin pointing the exact location the pain generates from and is ill defined in character.
Symptoms of Cervical Facet Syndrome
Pain may be felt in different areas such as the C0-C1 joint which is the first bone in the neck. Pain usually is felt when moving the head in up and down movements. The C1-C2 joint’s pain stems from rotating the neck, which will generally cause stiffness and headaches. The C2-C3 joint pain can cause headaches and stiffness. The lower neck, C3-C7 joints, houses the nerves which supply the shoulder and arm area. Headaches are less of an issue with joint problems in this area, however stiffness of the neck and tightness and pain in the shoulder area is present.
Cervical Facet Maneuver
There are different maneuvers that may be used in determining whether a patient is suffering from cervical facet syndrome. The purpose of using cervical facet maneuvers is to determine the origin and cause of the onset of symptoms.
Treatment for Cervical Facet Syndrome
In most cases, a chiropractor can help ease the pain associated with cervical facet syndrome. The treatment involves soft-tissue work and manipulation of the affected areas. Physical therapy is another method which can help erase the pain by using ice to decrease the blood flow to the injured area and can also alleviate any spasms which may occur.
The use of ultrasound and electrical stimulation can be effective in reducing pain due to muscle spasms also.
Use of muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication can also be used effectively to reduce the pain. In cases where the pain has become chronic, prescriptions for Vicodin and Percocet are used along with a referral to a pain management specialist.
Another form of treatment is having facet injections and medial branch blocks followed by radio frequency ablation.
Surgical intervention by way of a cervical fusion can be another alternative, however it is to be viewed with great caution and only after all other non-surgical procedures have failed.
In addition to traditional surgery, there are also minimally invasive procedures available to treat cervical facet syndrome. The benefits of having this type of surgery versus conservative surgery include, but are not limited to: small incision(s), therefore minimal scarring; no general anesthesia; no hospital stay; and a quick recovery that results in the patient being able to resume their normal lifestyle in a minimal amount of time.
It is recommended that before deciding on the appropriate form of treatment, that you explore all options and treatment procedures available to you. Have a list of questions to discuss with your doctor and if you can, it is always best to seek the opinion of a second physician.