A Facet Joint Injection is a procedure that is used diagnostically to determine if the facet joint of two specific vertebrae are the source of chronic pain. It is also used as a therapeutic pain relieving procedure once the facet joint has been determined to be the cause of chronic pain.
What conditions are treatable with Facet Joint Injections?
Facet Joint Injections generally are utilized to treat conditions of the spine related to the facet joints that cause a person to experience chronic neck or back pain. There are facet joints located at each level of the spine, one on each side. They are about the size of a thumbnail and contain cartilage. Collectively, they allow an impressive spinal range of motion.
A facet joint is the contact point between two vertebrae that provides stability to the spine. These joints have cartilage and a fluid filled capsule to reduce friction. Arthritis or injury can damage these joints and this can become a painful condition. Arthritis and spinal injuries are the most common causes of facet joint pain. Pain from facet arthritis is termed facet syndrome.
What are expectations when a patient gets Facet Joint Injections?
When a patient undergoes the injection procedure they have a reasonable expectation to find relief from their chronic pain. Over 75% of individuals obtain back or neck pain relief when undergoing the procedure. The procedure is minimally invasive and very low risk with less than 3% of patients having issues.
How are Facet Joint Injections performed?
The patient is often sedated, he or she will be placed face down on a procedure table. The patient will have vital signs monitored during the procedure. The area to be injected is cleansed with antiseptic solution, then with the aid of a fluoroscope (a type of x-ray machine) to ensure proper placement of the needle, the Chicago pain management physician will gently insert the needle into the facet joint(s) to be treated. Contrast dye is often used to identify the joint being treated to ensure the medication goes into the correct spot.
The Chicago pain management doctor will then slowly inject a mixture of medications; typically this will be a local anesthetic and corticosteroid. The patient may experience immediate relief due to the local anesthetic. After the injection the patient will be moved to an observation area for about thirty minutes to be observed for an allergic response to the medications. The entire procedure typically takes less than one hour, depending on how many areas are treated. Multiple areas may be treated in one session.
How long can the effects of the Facet Joint Injections last?
Different people react differently to the medications used so your level of relief cannot be anticipated. Often a patient will experience relief during the procedure due to the local anesthetic but this will wear off in a few hours. It may take several days before the steroid medication begins to work. Studies show that over 75% of those treated with facet injections experience satisfactory pain relief in either the back or neck.
Relief from the steroid may last from a few weeks to several months. It may require multiple procedures before the maximum benefit is gained. After the full benefit is gained it is not unusual for patients to be virtually pain free for many months.
Risks and side effects are very minimal, there is a possibility of mild bruising or swelling and a few drops of blood may appear post-injection. Very rarely an infection may occur at the injection site. In extremely rare cases there has been damage to tissue from the steroid. Even more rarely is the risk of damage to nerves from the needle.
Bottom line on Facet Joint Injections?
The bottom line is that if you suffer from chronic back or neck pain due to arthritis, Facet Joint Injections may help you find relief. Discuss your condition with your Chicago pain management doctor and see if Facet Joint Injections are right for you.