A facet joint injection is a diagnostic and therapeutic tool that helps identify the source and cause of a patient’s back pain. These minimally invasive injections help reduce pain and inflammation caused by chronic, degenerative conditions such as facet joint syndrome and spinal arthritis. The steroid medication from a facet joint injection can last several days or weeks, but the purpose of this procedure is to determine whether or not the patient will respond well to a supplemental therapy like radiofrequency neurotomy. As a result, the physicians at Orthopedic and Wellness do not generally perform more than one injection on a particular facet joint. If the patient experiences relief from the facet joint injection, then radiofrequency neurotomy may be performed to provide him or her with sustained pain relief.
Facet joint injections combine a local anesthetic with a corticosteroid medication to reduce pain and inflammation. Because this procedure is considered minimally invasive, patients are not “put under” with general anesthesia. Patients may, however, be given an intravenous sedation to minimize their discomfort throughout the procedure. Before the injection, patients lie on their stomach with their neck and back exposed. Depending on the location of the patient’s pain, the skin of the neck or back is cleansed before a local anesthetic is injected into the muscles and surrounding tissues. Using x-ray guidance, the physician begins injecting the patient’s facet joints with the steroid medication mixture. The patient will need to discuss their pain levels after each injection to help the physician determine whether or not the affected facet joint has been treated. If the patient experiences adequate pain relief, the physician will complete the injections and send the patient to a separate room to recover.
Immediately after the procedure, patients may begin to feel their pain diminish or disappear completely. This is due to the anesthetic, and the effects from this numbing medication may only last a few hours. Patients may begin to feel some of their pain return a day or two after the procedure. This is normal, and if the injection procedure was successful, patients will start to feel less and less pain several days after their treatment. Unless there are complications, patients can usually return to work and their normal, daily activities the next day. Side effects from this procedure may include worsening symptoms, infection, bleeding, water retention, or weight gain. Call Orthopedic and Wellness immediately if these complications arise.