Neck arthritis has many names: cervical facet joint osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis, degenerative joint disease, and cervical osteoarthritis. On this site, we usually refer to it as cervical osteoarthritis.

Video highlights

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

See Cervical Spine Anatomy and Neck Pain

All along the back of your spine, there are 2 pair of facet joints on each side of the vertebrae, pictured above and highlighted in pink. These small joints provide stability and allow for movements, like turning and nodding your head.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

Article continues below

Each facet joint is lined with cartilage. The cartilage is surrounded by a capsule filled with synovial fluid, which helps lubricate the facet joint and enables smooth movements.

See Facet Joint Anatomy

Cervical facet osteoarthritis occurs if the cartilage begins to degenerate, or break down. As the cartilage thins or disappears completely, bone-on-bone friction occurs in the facet joints. This friction can cause cervical bone spurs, or osteophytes, to develop.

See Bone Spurs (Osteophytes) and Back Pain

Bone spurs may press on a nerve root in the neck...

...and cause symptoms such as pain, weakness, or tingling which radiates along the path of the nerve into the arm and hand.

See Cervical Spondylosis and Cervical Myelopathy Symptoms

You may also experience pain in your neck and upper back, shoulders, and between your shoulder blades. Radiated, or referred pain, may also cause headaches, especially in the back of your head.

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

See Neck Exercises for Neck Pain

If you have symptoms of cervical osteoarthritis, it is best to seek a diagnosis and undertake treatment sooner rather than later. Often it is possible to manage the symptoms through nonsurgical options, such as physical therapy and stretching.

Read more:

Osteoarthritis Complete Treatment Guide

Cervical Spondylosis with Myelopathy