What You Need to Know about Neck Arthritis

Neck arthritis goes by many names, but we refer to it as cervical osteoarthritis. Our video walk-through can help you better understand this common condition:

See Cervical Osteoarthritis (Neck Arthritis)

Cervical Facet Osteoarthritis

Cervical osteoarthritis may also be referred to as degenerative joint disease.
 Cervical Facet Osteoarthritis Video

Video highlights

The portion of your spine that makes up your neck is called the cervical spine.

See Cervical Spine Anatomy and Neck Pain

Facet Joints

All along the back of your spine are 2 facet joints on each side of your vertebrae (highlighted in pink above). These small joints both provide stability and enable movements like turning and nodding your head.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

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How cervical osteoarthritis symptoms develop

Cervical Facet Joint

Each of your facet joints is lined with cartilage. The cartilage is surrounded by a capsule filled with synovial fluid, which lubricates your facet joints and enables smooth movements.

See Facet Joint Anatomy

Cervical Facet Osteoarthritis

Cervical facet osteoarthritis develops when your cartilage begins to degenerate, or break down. As your cartilage thins (or disappears completely), bone-on-bone friction occurs in your facet joints. This friction can create cervical bone spurs, or osteophytes.

See Cervical Pain from Joint Degeneration


Cervical Facet Joints Bone Spurs

On occasion, your bone spurs may impinge on a nerve root in your neck (pictured above).

See Cervical Nerves

Cervical Radiculopathy

This impingement can send symptoms such as pain, weakness, or tingling radiating along the path of the nerve into your arm and hand.

See What Causes Hand Pain and Numbness?

Cervical Facet Osteoarthritis

Cervical osteoarthritis can also lead to pain in your neck, upper back, shoulders, and between your shoulder blades. Radiated, or referred pain, may also cause headaches; especially in the back of your head.

See All About Upper Back Pain

Cervical Facet Osteoarthritis

You may also experience tenderness or swelling in the area over your affected facet joints, and have a reduced range of motion of your neck.

See Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Treatment options

Cervical osteoarthritis rarely requires surgery, and initial treatment options include both rest and activity modification. In addition, your doctor may recommend any of the following:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Cortisone injections
  • Heat and/or cold therapy
  • Muscle relaxants

See Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Facet Joint Injections

If you don’t respond to conservative treatments, you may be a candidate for a cervical laminectomy and/or cervical spinal fusion surgery.


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