The vertebral bones are connected by discs on the front part of the spine. Along the back part of the spine, the vertebral bones contact each other on both sides and form facet joints. There are two facet joints at each level of the spine, and they support and stabilize the spine during movement.
Facet injections are used to confirm the source of pain, and to treat your pain if it is caused by facet joints’ problems such as facet arthritis, degeneration, hypertrophy or facet edema.
According to the level of the spine, facet joints are called cervical facet joints (neck portion), thoracic facet joints (mid-back section) and lumbar facet joints (in the lower back). Lumbar facet joint injection is the most common type of this procedure.
How do Facet Joint Injections work?
A doctor will use X-ray to guide him or her through facet joint injections. This ensures the safety and accuracy of the procedure. The area will be sterilized and a local anesthetic will be injected to numb the skin.
A needle containing anti-inflammatory medications, usually a steroid, will be inserted directly into your facet joint. Once it is removed, a sterile dressing is applied to the area.
How many facet joint injections can I have?
You can have them three to six months apart but in most cases, patients only need one or two treatments for pain relief.
What are the Expected Results?
Patients have had successful facet joint injections for years. You may notice some pain in your back or neck a few hours after the injection. Patients usually rest on the day of the procedure and resume normal activities the next day. Pain relief from the injection is usually felt by the second or third day.
Facet joint injection side effects and risks
All medical procedures have risks, but the risks associated with facet joint injections are very low. You may have some pain at the injection site. Rarely, you may have a headache. Less common side effects include allergic reaction, nerve damage, bleeding and infection.
Steroids do have side effects including blood sugar fluctuations, weight gain and water retention. You may also sweat and have heart palpations a few days after the injection.