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Facet Joint Injection

What is a Facet Joint Injection?

A facet joint injection is a procedure that identifies the source of irritation in the small joints at each segment of the spine. These joints provide stability and help guide motion. If multiple levels of pain exist within the facets, several injections may be required to pinpoint the pain source in each location.  A steroid injection (anti-inflammatory) medication is administered to block the pain. This pain relief helps enable you to undergo necessary conventional treatment, such as physical therapy, to rehabilitate your back or neck.

 

Learn more about this exam:

  • We will contact you prior to your appointment to review medications you are currently taking, your medical history, potential risks and answer any of your questions.
  • Contact your provider before you stop taking any medication.
  • If you have films, reports or CD-ROMs of any MRI, CT or X-rays you have already had, please bring them to the appointment.
  • You will need a driver to bring you home after your appointment.
  • At your appointment, women should always inform their provider or X-ray technologist if there is any possibility that they are pregnant or if they are breast feeding.
  • Using a thin needle and X-ray-guidance (fluoroscopy), a radiologist will inject contrast (X-ray dye) into or adjacent to the facet joint thought to be causing your pain. This helps ensure correct placement of the needle for the procedure.
  • The radiologist will be interested in how this discomfort compares to your usual pain symptoms.
  • X-rays are taken, and a combination of an anti-inflammatory (steroid) and anesthetic (numbing) medications are then injected for pain relief.
  • You will remain awake during the 10-20 minute procedure, and may experience some slight pressure or discomfort during the injection.
  • You will be asked to wait 30-40 minutes after your procedure for observation.
  • You may experience numbness and/or relief from your symptoms after the injection.
  • Your usual symptoms may then return and possibly be worse than usual for a day or two. The beneficial effects of the steroids usually require 2 to 3 days to take hold, but may take as long as 5 to 7 days. Every patient is different and your results may vary. 
  • If an initial injection provided a certain amount of relief, a second injection might strengthen the pain relief effect. Also, if your pain subsides, but begins to return weeks or months later, additional injections may be possible.
  • If there is no change in your symptoms after a week, your provider may want to investigate other possible sources for your pain.
  • If the injection blocked your pain effectively, but only for a short time, your provider may request additional injections. Your provider may also wish to consider a procedure that offers more permanent relief, such as radiofrequency rhizotomy.

Although complications are rare, we will review possible side effects and risks with you prior to your exam so you can ask questions and decide if this exam is right for you.

 

NOTE: This procedure is not performed in all of our centers. Please contact the location or region nearest you for more information or to schedule an appointment. We are happy to help answer any questions you may have!