Cervical facet osteoarthritis, also known as cervical facet joint syndrome, is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the cervical, or neck, region of the spine.
The cervical portion of your spine runs from the base of your skull to your lower neck. The joints in this part of the spine are susceptible to the wear and tear of osteoarthritis, just as much of the body’s joints are.
Specifically, osteoarthritis often occurs in the facet joints, which are paired joints on each level of the spine. They join the vertebrae together and allow for movement. The cervical facet joints allow us to shake and nod our head.
These joints have cartilage to protect their movement against each other, but this cartilage can degrade and wear away. Sometimes it even disappears, leading to bone-on-bone contact.
This direct contact causes the bone to create bumpy growths called bone spurs or osteophytes.
These bone spurs can irritate the root of the nerves leaving the spine at different levels, causing symptoms of pain, numbness, or tingling.
When bone spurs form in the cervical facet joints, these neurological symptoms can appear in the neck, upper back, shoulders, and between the shoulder blades. They may also cause headaches, particularly on the back of the head.
In addition, people may experience tenderness and swelling over the site of cervical facet joints affected by osteoarthritis, as well as limited range of motion in the neck.