Objective: To review the relevant literature on cervical facet joint dysfunction and determine findings regarding its anatomy, etiology, prevalence, clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment.
Data sources: A computer-aided search of several databases was performed, including Medline (1966 to present), Ovid (1966 to present), and the Cochrane database (1993 to present).
Study selection: Selected articles had the following criteria: (1) all articles analyzed cervical facet joint pain-anatomy, prevalence, etiology, diagnosis, treatment; (2) only full, published articles were studied, not abstracts; and (3) all articles were published in English.
Data extraction: All articles were critically evaluated and included the following categories: randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, uncontrolled clinical trials, uncontrolled comparison studies, nonquantitative systematic reviews, and literature-based reviews.
Data synthesis: We examined 45 references that consisted of 44 journal articles and relevant sections from 1 textbook. Cervical facet joints have been well established in the literature as a common nociceptive pain generator, with an estimated prevalence that ranges from 25% to 66% of chronic axial neck pain. No studies have reported clinical examination findings that are diagnostic for cervical facet mediated pain.
Conclusions: Overall the literature provides very limited information regarding the treatment of this condition, with only radiofrequency neurotomy showing evidence of effectively reducing pain from cervical facet joint dysfunction.