Osteophytes on the zygapophyseal (facet) joints of the cervical spine (C3–C7): A skeletal study

David Ezra*, Einat Kedar, Khalil Salame, Deborah Alperovitch-Najenson, Israel Hershkovitz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have reported that osteophytes in the cervical vertebrae may cause immobility, neck stiffness, osteoarthritis, headaches, nerve entrapment syndromes, and compression of the vertebral artery. Our objective was to explore the osteophytes' expression on zygapophyseal joints C3–C7. This is a cross-sectional observational skeletal study. The study sample comprised 273 human skeletons of both sexes, aged 20–93, housed at the Natural History Museum, OH, USA. A grading system assessed the presence and severity of osteophytosis on the zygapophyseal joints. The chi-square test (SPSS 25.0) examined the association between osteophytes and demographic factors. The level of significance (α) was set at.05. The highest prevalence of osteophytes was found on C5 vertebra, the lowest on C7. On vertebrae C3, C4, C6, the rate of moderate and severe osteophytes found on the superior and inferior facets were comparable. Moderate and severe degrees of osteophytes were observed more frequently on the superior facets, whereas, on vertebra C7, osteophytes were found on the inferior facet joints. Osteophytes' prevalence was significantly higher in the elderly compared to the younger population. Osteophytes in the C3–C7 zygapophyseal joints are age-dependent. No significant sex and ethnic differences were observed. Vertebra C5 was most prone to develop osteophytes, most probably due to its location in the cervical lordotic peak, C5 in the superior ZF; C7 in the inferior ZF are significant (p =.05). The zygapophyseal joints of C7 were least frequent overall, yet, the C7 inferior facets had significantly more moderate–severe osteophytes compared to other cervical vertebrae.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1072
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • aging
  • cervical spine
  • osteophytosis
  • sex
  • skeletal study
  • zygapophyseal joints


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