Understanding facet joint injections
A facet joint injection can relieve the pain and limited mobility you’re experiencing as a result of spinal arthritis. If a facet joint injection is successful in relieving your neck or back pain for a few months, it can make it much easier for you to complete a course of conservative treatments like physical therapy. This combination of methods gives many patients meaningful relief that lets them return to an acceptable quality of life.
How are facet joint injections administered?
These injections are usually recommended for patients who are not finding relief from initial basic treatments like rest, massage and over-the-counter medication. If mobility is too limited and pain is too great to complete physical therapy and rehabilitation, injections can be effective in relieving symptoms long enough to continue treatments.
Once a facet joint injection is prescribed it is usually performed with the following steps:
- A local anesthetic is applied to numb the skin. In some cases, a sedative IV may be administered if needed.
- The physician inserts a needle directly into the affected facet joint.
- To verify that the needle has been inserted into the proper location, contrasting dye and an X-ray are used.
- Once the needle has been properly positioned, the physician will inject numbing medication and cortisone into the facet joint.
As an added benefit of these injections, if pain relief is experienced immediately a physician or specialist can know that this specific joint is causing symptoms.
What happens next?
Most patients are able to resume normal activities immediately after receiving a facet joint injection. Though some pain and soreness may linger as the numbing medication wears off, the cortisone should take full effect within a few days. Cortisone is a long-lasting hormone and should continue to provide pain relief for several months. In the meantime, most patients are advised to resume or begin other treatment methods, especially physical therapy.
Laser Spine Institute
If your facet joint pain is so severe that a facet joint injection has provided little to no relief, surgery may become an option. If you are concerned about some of the risks and difficulties associated with traditional open back surgery, Laser Spine Institute may be able to help. Our minimally invasive spine surgery can use a less than one-inch incision and muscle-sparing techniques. This leads to a shorter recovery period and less scarring when compared to traditional procedures.^