01 Feb How are Headaches Caused by Cervical Facet Joint Syndrome?
Headache pain is curious in the sense that its cause does not have to be an illness or damage associated with the head itself. In fact, many cases of headache pain do not originate in the head. Take headaches caused by cervical facet joint syndrome. The pain might be felt in the head, but it originates in the cervical spine.
Cervical facet joint syndrome is essentially facet joint syndrome of the cervical spine, as opposed to the lumbar spine. The cervical spine is that section of bones and spinal cord running from the base of the shoulders up to the base of the skull. It is obviously shorter than the lumbar spine.
Continue reading to learn how cervical facet joint syndrome causes headache pain. As you are reading, keep in mind that Lone Star Pain Medicine can help you manage, and potentially eliminate, headache pain associated with this particular condition. We invite you to make an appointment to see one of our chronic pain doctors today.
Basics of Facet Joint Syndrome
Facet joints are those joints between the individual vertebrae. You have plenty of them running down the entire length of your back. Facet joint syndrome occurs when one or more of these joints is either damaged or inflamed. Facet joint syndrome can be caused by acute injury, long-term illness, an underlying health condition, or even normal wear and tear.
When the facet joints become inflamed, they can put pressure on surrounding nerves. Likewise, facet joint syndrome resulting from the breakdown of cartilage between vertebrae leads to spinal compression. This can also put pressure on surrounding nerves. Even the slightest bit of pressure can create a significant amount of discomfort.
Facet Joint Syndrome and Headaches
There are two small vertebrae just under the base of the skull known as the C2 and C3. These two bones are constantly under stress as a result of having to support the entire weight of the head. The two vertebrae, along with C1, are generally the involved vertebrae when dealing with headaches caused by cervical facet joint syndrome. For the record, we refer to these types of headaches as cervicogenic headaches, or CGH for short.
A good portion of CGH patients experience cervical facet joint syndrome as the result of a traumatic injury to the back of the neck. A good example would be whiplash suffered in a car accident. Once the cervical spine is damaged, it can take quite a long time for that damage to be repaired. In the meantime, headaches would be expected.
Normal Wear and Tear
When traumatic injury is not involved, the next most common cause of cervical facet joint syndrome and CGH is the natural wear and tear of age. As we get older, our bodies begin to break down. Cartilage is especially vulnerable, which is why so many seniors suffer from osteoarthritis.
The same factors that lead to osteoarthritis can cause a breakdown of the cartilage between cervical vertebrae. And as previously discussed, a loss of cartilage often leads to spinal compression.
When facet joint syndrome occurs in C2 and C3, headaches are normal. If the damage or disease is lower in the spine, patients are more likely to experience neck and/or shoulder pain. No matter the case, the pain is caused by nerve compression.
Here at Lone Star Pain Medicine, we have a number of tools we can suggest for treating headache pain caused by cervical facet joint syndrome. They include facet joint injections, medial branch blocks, and cervical facet radiofrequency neurotomy. We would be happy to discuss the options when you visit with us.