Facet joints are tiny joints that link the bones of the spine (vertebrae) together. There are two facet joints present at each spinal segment. A facet joint injection involves injecting the space with a corticosteroid agent to alleviate the pain associated with facet joint syndrome and spinal arthritis.
The facet joint injection is used for restricting cervical and lumbar spine motion. These joints allow for twisting, flexion, and extension motions. These joints are innervated with small nerves that branch off the spinal nerve. The facet joint injection reduces irritation in the joint and surrounding structures.
Trauma and arthritic changes can cause the release of certain substances that sensitive the joint nerve endings. This results in low back pain, tenderness along the low back over one or both sides, pain with twisting, and radiation of pain into the back, buttocks, or thighs. People with facet joint pain of the cervical spine may experience headaches, neck pain, scapular pain, and/or shoulder pain.
Facet joint injections are indicated for people with inflammation or arthritis of the facet joints, as well as those who do not respond to other treatments. Candidates include people with facet joint syndrome, spinal arthritis, whiplash injuries, back or neck trauma, and spinal stenosis.
Depending on the severity of your condition, facet joint injections are usually given in a series of three. Facet injections are often done for diagnostic purposes. Once the doctor confirms effectiveness, he/she may decide to perform a facet rhizotomy, which involves using heat to burn or destroy nerves of the facet joint to offer long-term pain relief.
Facet joint injections have a beneficial effect for around 74% of patients, according to a recent clinical study. Pain relief for medium-term effect was noted in 33% of participants, as well. These injections are useful for chronic low back pain as an alternative therapy to surgery or when used in conjunction with medications.
The procedure involves numbing the skin with an anesthetic agent, which causes a burning sensation that only last a few seconds. When the skin is numbed, the doctor will insert another needle into the facet joint to administer the medication. If necessary, the doctor will use intravenous sedation to make the procedure easier to tolerate.
Prior to the procedure, the doctor will take a medical history and have you sign a consent form. You must notify the healthcare staff of what medications you are taking. When you arrive at the medical facility, a nurse will discuss the risks and benefits of the facet joint injection and have you sign a consent form. Be sure to bring someone to drive you home, and do not eat or drink for 6 hours before the scheduled appointment.
A nurse will start an IV catheter in your arm and position you face down on the procedure table. The skin at the injection site is cleansed with an antiseptic solution and use a numbing agent to prevent pain. The injection needles are positioned into the tiny facet joints using x-ray guidance. Once the injection is done, a bandage is applied to the skin.
Immediately after the procedure, you may feel that your pain is lessened or gone completely, mainly due to the anesthetic effect. Expect to have some soreness at the injection sites due to the mechanical process of the needle insertion. We advise you to take it easy for a few days and use ice to relieve pain. Unless there are complications, most patients are permitted to work the day after the procedure.