The facet joints connect the spinal vertebrae and allow you to bend and twist with ease. Each vertebra has two facet joints on each side that act as a channel for nerves to exit from the spinal cord. These joints are lined with cartilage, which allows the bones to glide smoothly over each one another. As added protection, the facet joints are also lubricated with fluid to minimize the affects of wear and tear over time. Although the facet joints are well equipped to handle the bends and twists our backs give them, over time, these joints can become more vulnerable to facet disease.
What Is Facet Disease in the Neck?
What Causes Facet Disease in the Cervical Spine?
Facet disease in the neck as well as the lower back is caused when cartilage within the joint is worn down due to an injury, daily wear and tear or, most commonly, the aging process. Further, facet disease in the neck may be a result of trauma to the cervical spine, overuse due to manual labor or even arthritis.
Facet Disease Symptoms in the Neck
Symptoms of facet disease are typically described as pain localized to the area of the afflicted joint or joints. An affected facet joint along the cervical spine generally results in pain in the back of the neck that can radiate down to the shoulders.
Who’s at Risk for Facet Disease?
Anyone can be at risk for facet disease in the neck, however, a thorough understanding of the condition may allow for prevention. Those particularly at risk for this condition include:
- People with poor posture or lifting techniques
- People who suffer from arthritis
- Individuals who are overweight
- People who have spondylosis
- Those who have weakened immune systems
- Those with traumatic injuries to the spine
- Older individuals
- People with a history of spinal degeneration in their family
- Individuals with physically demanding jobs or hobbies
The MISI Approach to Facet Disease in the Neck
The specialists at Minimally Invasive Surgical Institute believe in utilizing conservative treatment methods when possible. Common pain management procedures that can alleviate the inflammatory painful symptoms associated with facet disease affecting the neck are facet injections or nerve ablation procedures. These procedures and usually done under light sedation on an outpatient basis.
However, if conservative treatment for facet disease have proven to be unsuccessful, surgical treatment may be considered. While traditional surgical methods can leave patients in recovery for months, the fellowship trained spine specialists at MISI take a different approach and utilize minimally invasive techniques when every possible. This allows them to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with facet disease and help patients to return to normal activities in a shorter period of time. Most surgical procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. For more information about MISI’s approach to treatments for facet disease in the cervical spine, visit our treatment page here.
Dr. Bryce Benbow has either authored or reviewed and approved this content.