The prevalence of facet-joint-related chronic neck pain in postsurgical and nonpostsurgical patients: a comparative evaluation

Pain Pract. 2008 Jan-Feb;8(1):5-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-2500.2007.00169.x.


Background: Facet (zygapophysial) joints may be clinically important sources of chronic cervical spinal pain. Previous studies have demonstrated the value and validity of controlled, comparative local anesthetic blocks in the diagnosis of facet joint pain, and reported an overall prevalence of 36% to 67% facet joint involvement in cervical spinal pain. The reports of lumbar facet joint-involvement in postsurgery syndrome have been shown to be highly variable with prevalence ranging from 8% to 32%. To date, however, the prevalence of postsurgical facet joint-related pain in the cervical spine has not been evaluated. In light of this, the present retrospective study was conducted to assess and compare the prevalence of chronic postsurgical facet joint cervical spinal pain to nonsurgical, chronic cervical facet joint pain.

Methods: Patients presenting with chronic neck pain were studied. The procedures were performed by a single physician in an interventional pain management ambulatory surgery center. The prevalence of cervical facet joint pain in postsurgical patients was assessed and compared to nonsurgical patients.

Results: A total of 251 patients (45 postsurgery vs. 206 nonsurgical patients) with chronic persistent neck pain were evaluated using controlled, comparative local anesthetic blocks in accordance with IASP criteria. The prevalence of the cervical facet joint pain and false-positive rate of single blocks in postsurgical patients were 36% and 50% compared with 39% and 43% in nonsurgical patients.

Conclusions: Cervical facet joints are clinically important pain generators in a significant proportion of patients with chronic persistent neck pain after surgical intervention(s). The prevalence of cervical facet joint pain was similar in both postsurgical and nonsurgical patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use
  • Autonomic Nerve Block
  • Cervical Vertebrae / pathology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lidocaine / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neck Pain / diagnosis
  • Neck Pain / epidemiology*
  • Neck Pain / etiology
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology
  • Neck Pain / therapy
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis
  • Pain, Postoperative / epidemiology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Pain, Postoperative / physiopathology
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Spinal Fusion


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Lidocaine