The facet joints are located along the length of the spine, extending from the neck to the lower back. These joints guide the spine’s movement and can cause debilitating pain in the neck and back when damaged. Facet joint injections are performed to diagnose the facet joints as the source of a patient’s pain and provide long-lasting pain relief. Benefits of facet joint injections include:
Patients begin the procedure lying face down while their doctor administers a local anesthetic over the facet joint to numb the area. Next, X-ray guidance, also called fluoroscopy, is used to direct a small needle into the facet joint. Contrast dye is then injected to ensure that the needle is positioned correctly. Once the needle positioning is confirmed, a mixture of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication is slowly injected into the joint, providing near-instant pain relief in some cases. The entire procedure is relatively quick, typically lasting about 20 to 30 minutes.
Healthy facet joints function to support the spine and allow a wide range of twisting and bending motion. However, various conditions can cause these joints to become inflamed and painful. Typically, facet joint injections are performed to treat pain that has not responded to physical therapy or other treatments.
Osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, degenerated discs, and trauma (such as a car accident) are common causes of facet joint disorders. Patients with neck, back, or leg pain caused by inflammation, irritation, or arthritis of the facet joints may also benefit from a facet injection.