What is it?
A facet joint injection is a precise diagnostic tool that also provides excellent therapeutic results. Using fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance, physicians are able to see and accurately target the affected joint(s). Facet joints are the small joints located between each vertebra that provide the spine with both stability and flexibility. Facet syndrome occurs when one or more of these joints become inflamed or irritated. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage lining the joint surface shrinks and wears thin, causing stress on the bone (bone spurs), inflammation, and enlargement of the joint.
Facet joint injections combine a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medication. This mixture relieves both pain and inflammation coming from the involved joint. A successful result supports the diagnosis that the facet joint is indeed the “pain generator” and the cause of your back pain. Because they are performed using local anesthetic, facet joint injections offer the advantage of providing immediate feedback in confirming the source of your pain.
Initially, a local anesthetic is applied, then a small spinal needle is inserted into the facet joint, and anesthetic and medication are injected using fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance. The anesthetic makes this procedure easy to tolerate.
How Long does the Procedure Take?
Both of these procedures are safely performed on an outpatient basis. Facet joint injections take less than 30 minutes. Facet joint injections are generally limited to three within a six-month time frame. In many instances, only one or two injections are required to obtain benefit.
What are the Expected Results?
Facet joint injections have been performed safely for many years with very positive outcomes. In the hours following the procedure, however, you may have a sore back or neck for one to two days. It’s recommended that you take it easy the day of the procedure, but return to your usual activities the following day. The pain relief benefits from facet joint injections typically begin on the second to third day.