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Facet Joint Injections

What is a facet joint injection?

Facet joint pain is perhaps the most common type of back pain – typically caused by osteoarthritis and other forms of bone degeneration. As the vertebrae and facet joints degenerate, the spinal column narrows, pinching nerves and causing pain to radiate through the arms and legs.

A facet joint injection is both a diagnostic tool and a pain management option. The injection’s fast-acting anesthetic can provide immediate relief, which suggests that the affected facet joint is a source of pain. The injection’s time-released cortisone steroid may provide long-term pain relief 

What does a facet joint injection treat?

Facet joint injections may be used to treat:

  • Pain the neck, head, shoulders, and arms. (Cervical Facet Joints)
  • Pain in the upper back, chest, and arms. (Thoracic Facet Joints)
  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks, hips, and legs. (Lumbar Facet Joints)

How is a facet joint injection administered?

A facet joint injection is administered in an outpatient setting, and takes just a few minutes to complete. When you arrive at Pain Management Associates at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute, you will be given a gown to change into. Though this procedure does not require any kind of sedation, you may be given medication if you’re feeling particularly anxious about your facet joint injection.

Once you’re dressed, you will be asked to lie down on a procedure table. Your skin will be cleansed in preparation for the short procedure. First, the physician will administer an anesthetic to reduce the pain and discomfort of the injection. Next, the physician will inject a contrast dye, which can be observed via fluoroscopy (real-time x-ray imaging technology). This contrast dye helps the physician administer the facet joint injection as accurately as possible. Under fluoroscopic guidance, the needle is placed and a mixture of anesthetic and steroid is injected into the facet joint.

How effective is a facet joint injection?

Assuming the painful facet joint was accurately targeted, the anesthetic should provide immediate pain relief. The steroid, however, will take about two to five days to start working. If you only have immediate pain relief, then that may be an indication that the painful facet joint was not targeted. An additional diagnostic test, such as a medial branch block, may be used to try and locate the source of your pain.

Facet joint injections, when effectively administered, can provide pain relief for several months. However, it’s important to find a pain management specialist experienced in facet joint injection, as physician experience and technique are important factors that influence outcome. 

What risks are associated with facet joint injection?

There are a few risks associated with facet joint injection that are common to any kind of procedure that punctures the skin. These include excessive bleeding, infection, allergic reactions, and nerve injury. However, these risks are rare.

You will be asked to remain at Pain Management Associates at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute for at least 15 to 20 minutes following your facet joint injection so that your physician can monitor you for any adverse side effects. Once you are considered stable, you will be discharged.

Is facet joint injection right for my back/neck pain?

A facet joint injection is a temporary solution to a problem that is unlikely to go away on its own. While facet joint injections can be great options for people who cannot – or do not want to – have surgery, more advanced treatment modalities may be necessary long-term solutions. Only a physician can determine if facet joint injections are right for your pain.

For more information about facet joint injections – or to schedule an appointment – call Pain Management Associates at Hedley Orthopaedic Institute at 480-257-2677. Pain management services offered in Mesa, AZ.


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