Facet injections can be used to treat discomfort ranging from neck pain in the cervical spine or upper back pain in the thoracic spine to lower back pain in the lumbar spine.
Facet joints are small joints located on each side of the vertebrae which connect it to the vertebrae above and below it. These joints provide stability and allow for a wide range of movements. Over time, the facet joints can become painful, either due to an injury, arthritis, or degenerative disc disease. If you are experiencing back pain, your doctor may recommend facet injections. Not only will they help with pain relief, but they will help your doctor see if the facet joints are the cause of your pain.
The facet joints are covered in cartilage and fluid filled areas that reduce the amount of friction between the bones. They can become inflamed, which causes friction between the bones; this can be very painful and reduce your range of motion. Facet injections aim at numbing the facet joint, to see if that helps with your pain. During the procedure, your doctor will use an X-ray to locate the damaged facet joints; they will then inject an anti-inflammatory medicine, along with an anesthetic into the joint. The entire procedure takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
Once your facet injections are completed, your doctor will have you rest for about a half an hour. Then, you will be asked to perform specific movements that would normally cause you to experience pain. Thanks to the anesthetic, you should be able to perform the movements without any pain. Your doctor will usually recommend working with a physical therapist for the first few weeks after your facet injections, while the anesthetic is still in effect.
As the anesthetic begins to wear off, the anti-inflammatory medicine (cortisone) will begin to take effect by decreasing the inflamed facet joint. The lasting effects of facet injections will entirely depend on if the facet joints were causing the back pain. If they were, you will notice immediate relief, along with lasting relief as the cortisone takes effect. If you feel immediate relief, but no long-lasting results, then you will need more tests to find the source.
If the facet injection was successful in treating your pain long term, then you can use them as ongoing pain relief, up to three times per year.
If you are experiencing back pain, contact a spine specialist at the Florida Spine Institute to help you determine whether a facet injection will eliminate the cause of your pain.