Cervical Facet Syndrome

Introduction

The cervical spine is a very delicate part of the body however it carries plenty of loads. As a result, there are many issues that can come with it. The cervical spine is what we call an open chain. At the end of this chain, the skull which is the weight of a bowling ball sits right on top of it. Due to the extra weight and the open chain cervical and neck injuries can become very common. Some less serious issues include sprains and strain while some very serious injuries can cause paralysis. Today, we’ll discuss a common issue, cervical facet syndrome.

 

Anatomy of the cervical spine

To understand cervical facet syndrome, it is important for us to know some basic anatomy so it all makes sense. The cervical spine consists of 7 segments. Each segment makes contact with the one above and below it through the facet joint located at the posterior aspect vertebra. These joints are responsible for the function and limitation of the movement between each vertebra. The facet joints are angled differently depending on the part of the spine. In the cervical spine, the joints are at a 45-degree angle on the frontal plane. Due to this arrangement, it allows more flexibility in the range of motion; flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation. This means that the cervical spine is also more susceptible to injury.

 

Causes of cervical facet syndrome

Cervical facet syndrome is when the facet joints in the cervical spine pushing up against each other for a long period of time or any sudden movement increasing the pressure in the joint. This pressure causes irritation in the joint leading to inflammation and other issues. This is often caused by prolonged extension of the cervical spine. This motion is often seen in professionals who constantly lookup such as ceiling painters.  Another reason that can cause this syndrome is any whiplash injuries. The sudden impact of whiplash injuries can cause enough pressure against the facet joints against each other resulting in damage in the joint. Finally, any degenerative changes can also lead to cervical facet syndrome. This is because as there is more degeneration, there is less support for the vertebrae. This puts more pressure on the facets to hold everything together. This again leads to heavier pressure on the facet joint thus causing irritation and inflammation.

 

Symptoms of cervical facet syndrome

There are many symptoms displayed in cervical facet syndrome. Localized pain, muscle spasm, decrease in range of motion (especially extension) and difficulty performing overhead activities are some of the many symptoms. But there is one symptom that really makes it unique. Cervical facet syndrome causes referral pain and not radiating pain. Referral pain is when there is a pain in the neck and pain somewhere else. This pain does not link or run through one area. For example, pain in the neck and pain in the middle of the shoulder blades. Whereas radiating pain is a continuous form of pain. An example would be continuous pain that runs from the cervical spine through the arm and into the fingers. Depending on the level of the cervical facet syndromes, the areas of the referral will be different.

 

Conclusion and recommendation

In the case, if you do have cervical facet syndrome here is something that you could do to help you with symptom management. Applying ice indirectly would help alleviate inflammation, using a neck brace for support would take off the pressure on the joints and some exercises designed for cervical facet syndrome is good. The best thing to do is to get it checked by a professional whether it’s a chiropractor or a physical therapist. Cervical facet syndrome can be really painful and recovery time is dependent on the severity.

 

Cervical facet syndrome - common causes

 

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Whiplash – A Quick Guide

 

What is it?

 

Whiplash is caused by sudden hyperflexion (forward) and hyperextension (backwards) movement of the neck. This kind of quick movement stretches the soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons and ligaments, in your neck beyond their usual normal limits, resulting in damage of these structures.

 

How is classified?

 

The Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) grading system

WAD I: Neck pain + stiffness or tenderness only. No physical signs.

II: Neck pain + musculoskeletal signs (reduced range of motion)

III: Neck pain + neurological signs (numbness or tingling, weakness, decreased or absent reflexes)

IV: Neck pain + fracture or dislocation of the vertebrae in the neck.

It can be difficult to tell which grade you have, but the most common grade of whiplash is WAD II

 

How does it happen?

 

Most people associate whiplash with car accidents, but it can also happen in contact sports, rollercoasters and even head banging too hard at concerts. It can basically happen in any situation where abrupt head movement is involved.

 

What are the signs and symptoms?

 

The following are some signs that you are experiencing whiplash.

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Vertigo

 

How long does it last for?

 

This answer is different for every person, but typically the average human recovers within 6 months. That being said, it may take years to recover for those with prolonged symptoms.

It depends on the severity of the injury, how soon your you start treatment, how well you stick to your treatment, if you’ve had a whiplash injury before and whether you have any pre-existing conditions.

 

How do you treat it?

 

Easy, the 10-10-10 Protocol.

Initial treatment of whiplash should consist of 10 minutes of ice application, removal for 10 minutes and reapplication for another 10 minutes. Then repeat.

A structural chiropractor can provide the proper treatment and exercises to restore function and get you back to your normal daily activities sooner. Delayed treatment may hinder overall recovery time, so the sooner you start treatment, the better!

 

Chiropractor Auckland

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