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Pain Treatments

Facet Joint Injection

Facet Joint Injection

The facet joint is a small joint about the size of a finger joint that connects one spine vertebrae to the level above and below.  The purpose of this joint is to help stabilize the spine and restrict motion to protect the spinal cord and nerve roots. Under normal circumstances, the joint does help distribute a small amount of the weight of the torso. Most of the weight of the torso is displaced by the discs between the vertebrae. When the spinal discs are damaged the facet joint begin to take on more of the weight of the torso. This often leads to degeneration of the facet joints and may be associated with pain that is located in the back and can refer away from the spine. Facet joint injections can provide pain relief when inflamed.

The doctor will numb your neck or back with medication. Then, guided by an x-ray, he will:

  • Insert a thin needle into your low back and look at the placement under x-ray
  • Inject a steroid (for longer term relief), platelet rich plasma, or- if performing a block- numbing medication to temporarily block the nerve to the facet joint

Usually, the procedure takes less than 15 minutes and you can go home the same day.

Some patients report pain relief within the first few hours after the injection, but pain may return later that day as the local anesthetic wears off. Longer-term relief usually begins in 48-72 hours, once the steroid begins to work or 6-8 weeks if platelet rich plasma is used.

How long the pain relief lasts varies person to person. For some, the relief lasts several months or longer. If the treatment works for you, you can have periodic injections to stay pain-free.

The risk of a complication from facet joint injection is very low. Rarely, complications include bleeding or infection at the injection site, which is unusual for a facet joint injection. Most of the time, these effects resolve within a few hours.

Unlike some of the other injections, we want you to be active within the first 4-6 hours after this injection. This is important to help us determine if the procedure is successful. Do not drive the day of the injection if you have had any form of anesthesia.

You can continue your regular diet and medications immediately.

Please record your percentage of pain relief for the first 4-6 hours after the injection. Your response after this initial injection will be a major deciding factor in determining whether a confirmation injection is to be performed.  In some cases, it may take up to a week for the steroid to begin working. If you don’t feel better within the first two weeks, see your doctor to discuss different treatment options. If platelet rich plasma is used, please allow for 6-8 weeks to see if the injection works.

Not sure what treatment options are best for you?  Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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