Neck & Hand Pain
Facet Joint Pain
A facet injection is a minimally invasive treatment option for back pain caused by inflamed facet joints. Facet joint pain is often related to spinal stenosis, sciatica or arthritis and is characterized by neck, arm, low back or leg pain. Each vertebra has 4 facet joints that connect it to the vertebra above and below and allow for smooth movement of the spine. The injection may also be used as a diagnostic test to determine if facet joint inflammation is the source of a patient’s pain.
A facet joint block can be performed for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes, in order to relieve pain and confirm that symptoms stem from the facet joints. If treatment is successful, your doctor can develop a more permanent treatment approach. It may also be used as a temporary means of pain relief so that more long-term treatment methods, such as physical therapy, can be performed with less pain and difficulty.
Candidates for Facet Joint Block
Patients with back, leg, arm or neck pain that is suspected to come from the facet joints are likely candidates from a facet joint block. Your doctor may perform this procedure after anti-inflammatory medications, a back brace or other conservative methods have failed in relieving pain.
The facet joints may become inflamed as a result of several different spinal conditions, including spinal stenosis, sciatica, herniated disc, arthritis and more. Performing a facet joint block can relieve pain caused by these conditions and also help your doctor determine the specific cause of your pain.
Facet joint blocks are not considered safe for patients who are pregnant, have a current infection or a bleeding disorder. Your doctor will determine whether or not this procedure is right for you after a thorough evaluation of your individual condition.
Facet Joint Block Procedure
Before administering a facet joint block, your doctor will first numb the injection site with an anesthetic to reduce any potential discomfort. The treatment needle is then inserted directly into the facet joint through the back, using fluoroscopic imaging to ensure precise placement of the needle. Once the needle is in place, a combination of anesthetic and cortisone are injected into the targeted joint.
This procedure takes less than 30 minutes to perform with most patients able to tolerate it well. You will experience immediate pain relief because of the anesthetic used in the injection, with actual results developing shortly after. Some patients may experience mild pain at the injection site, which can be managed through Paracetamol and ice.
Results and Recovery from Facet Joint Block
Patients will be able to return home shortly after the injection and can resume regular activities the next day. Pain relief from this procedure may last from a few hours to a few months, depending on each patient’s individual condition and their response to treatment.
You will be asked to see your doctor about a week after treatment so that he/she can evaluate the results of your injection and determine whether or not additional treatments are recommended. A facet joint block can be repeated up to three times a year for patients who experienced successful but short-term pain relief.
Risks of a Facet Joint Block
Although this treatment is considered safe, especially when performed by an experienced physician, there are certain risks involved. In rare cases, patients may experience an infection, allergic reaction, bleeding or nerve damage at the time of infection. Less invasive procedures, such as imaging tests and physical therapy, are often performed prior to a facet joint block. However, many patients experience effective results from this procedure with only a minimal risk of side effects.