Back Pain In Women

Cervical Facet Arthropathy: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

September 19, 2020

Cervical facet arthropathy describes the pain in the small facet joints which connects the vertebrae in the upper cervical spine. This happens when the joint facets become inflamed or irritated mainly because of arthritis, injury, or joint compression. It may also include repetitive injuries from stress due to load carrying or regular overhead motions and poor posture. The symptoms of this health condition differ from mild to severe and they include tenderness and neck pain, difficulty in turning or moving the head, radiating pain from the arm and shoulder blade, difficulty In carrying out overhead activities and sitting for a prolonged period.

Some specialists help patients who have serious back and neck problems and this includes cervical facet arthropathy. They help them get better and go back to their regular daily activities. The doctors come together to use their expertise and knowledge to develop a treatment course for individual patients. Mild cases may be treated by the use of ice, rest, or to avoid activities that result in pain such as twisting or lifting the neck and head, looking up, overhead motions, pain, and anti-inflammatory medications. If the symptoms do not respond to severe or conservative treatment then the patient may have to go in for surgery.


Cervical Facet Arthropathy Symptoms And Causes

The most common symptom here is pain. People with this condition may experience;

  • Neck or back pain which worsens when you lean or bend backward
  • Aggravated back pain by lifting objects or body twisting
  • Inability to move or stiffness in the neck or back

Knowing whether the source of this pain may be difficult as there are other possible causes of similar symptoms like disc problems, sprains, or injury to the back muscle. And this pain differs amongst persons. Also, note that there are different stages of facet arthropathy.

The most common cause of facet arthropathy is neck or back pain, especially in the elderly ones. It occurs when the facet joints cartilage gets damaged or breaks down. The possible causes of this include:


  • OsteoarthritisThis is a degenerative disease that comes from wear down of joints cartilage. However, this most commonly occurs in the knees and hips and can affect your facet joints.
  • Injuries or accidents: A sports injury, a fall, or car accident can harm your facet joints causing facet arthropathy.
  • Facet joints wear and tear: Improper posture, disc problems, and heavy lifting also contribute to wear down of cartilages.

Risk Factors

Currently, no one cause can be attached to multilevel facet arthropathy. But certain risk factors exist and they vary based on the particular area affected.

Neck facet arthropathy

The neck vertebrae on the upper spine part are also referred to as the spine cervical area. If facet arthropathy occurs in this area, it does not seem to have obvious risk factors. A review suggests that there are no existing links between physical activity, body weight, age or gender, and cervical facet arthropathy.

However, there are no studies that examine the possibility of strenuous activities like pulling, carrying, or lifting, causing cervical facet arthropathy.

Facet Arthropathy Lumbar

The spine lumbar area which is found at the small part of your back. It is where the spine also curves in and is designed for supporting the weight of the body. The vertebrae here is wider and bigger than the other spine vertebrae.

It may come with some risk factors, although more research needs to be done to confirm this. The possible risk factors are;

  • Age: Older people are more prone to having this
  • Sex: It has been said that women are more at risk of developing this than men
  • Ethnicity: The ethic group of African Americans has lesser chances of developing this condition
  • Bodyweight: People with a body mass index of twenty-five to thirty have more risk of developing lumbar facet arthropathy five times more than those with a body mass index of thirty to thirty-five.
  • Heredity: Genetics or family history predisposes some people to this condition. Heredity may carry out some roles in degeneration or breakdown of the back disc, and this may result in facet arthropathy. The other osteoarthritis form may happen together with facet arthropathy, and this could affect the knee and hip, which is linked with genetics.


Imaging tests help doctors in diagnosing cervical facet arthropathy. This test captures the spine joints and bones, identifying the damaged facet joints. Other methods of diagnosis include X-ray, computerized tomography scan, bone scan, and magnetic resonance imaging.

The test results can show which of the facet joints got damaged and also its severity.



Facet arthropathy treatment here focuses on easing stiffness and pain, helping the person stay active. The possible treatment includes:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. These medications will help in reducing inflammation and relieving pain. Doctors are to guide their patients in taking this medicine.
  • Physical therapy also helps in regaining spine movement and strength through specific exercises like the cervical facet joint pain exercises.
  • Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure that involves the use of radiofrequency waves in shutting down facet joints that have been affected. This will prevent nerves from transporting to brain pain signals.
  • Anesthetic injections are when the doctor injects anesthetic directly or pain reliever to the spine.
  • Surgery may be conducted on the spine. This procedure is called spinal fusion and it fuses the spinal bones that are affected into one. It eases pain by stopping further movement of the facet joints.


Although there are no exact preventive approaches for cervical facet arthropathy, the risk may be reduced by:

  • Regular exercise
  • Maintaining the body weight at a healthy level
  • Avoiding injuries
  • Maintaining a good posture
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat healthily and try using supplements