Facet Injections

Facet Joint Injections

Facet injections provide a non-surgical approach to alleviate pain and inflammation stemming from the facet joints in the spinal region. The facet joints are situated at the top and bottom of each vertebra and play a pivotal role in connecting the vertebrae, thus enabling back movement. By targeting pain arising from these joints, facet injections can help mitigate discomfort in the neck, lower back, and legs. Conditions such as spinal stenosis, spondylolysis, sciatica, arthritis, and herniated discs can contribute to facet pain and inflammation. When traditional treatments fail to provide relief, facet injections can be a viable option. The procedure involves the injection of corticosteroid and anesthetic medication into the facet joint capsule or the surrounding tissue, and can also serve as a diagnostic tool to pinpoint the source of the pain.

Why Spinal Facet Joint Injections?

During a facet joint injection, your doctor utilizes X-ray technology to carefully inject a specialized medication into the joint. This medication is comprised of both an anesthetic agent, which functions to numb the area, as well as anti-inflammatory steroids. The process helps alleviate any discomfort associated with the facet joint, providing relief and improved mobility.

When it comes to managing facet pain in various regions of the body, specific types of injections may be required. For instance, if you experience discomfort in the neck, head, or shoulders as a result of facet issues, a cervical facet joint injection may be necessary. Conversely, upper back and chest pain stemming from facets in the upper spine may require a thoracic facet injection. Similarly, if you are struggling with lower back, hip, or gluteal pain arising from facets, a lumbar facet joint injection may be an appropriate treatment option.

Procedure

A pivotal component of the spinal region, the facet joint serves as a mobile connection between two adjacent vertebrae. In order to mitigate any pain and inflammation associated with this joint, an injection comprising a powerful steroid and anesthetic agent (such as bupivacaine or lidocaine) is administered. While the steroid works to reduce inflammation and irritation, the anesthetic functions to effectively numb any associated pain. As this combination medication spreads to other areas of the spine, inflammation and irritation levels are decreased. Typically, the entire procedure is completed in less than 15 minutes

Facet Joint Injections and Epidural Steroid Injections (ESI) share similarities. However, they differ primarily in the injection site. With an ESI, medication is injected into the epidural space, whereas facet injections target the joint directly.

Risks

Facet joint injections are considered a safe and effective non-surgical treatment option for patients experiencing back pain, with minimal associated risks. However, there are still potential hazards that can arise during the procedure, such as needle misplacement. This can occur if the needle is advanced too deeply or positioned improperly. If this happens, it can lead to nerve damage, bleeding, infection, and even post-injection headaches. Despite these risks, facet joint injections remain a popular treatment choice for many patients seeking relief from their back pain.

Like any medication, there are potential risks and side effects associated with facet injections. While some of these risks may be attributed to the medication administered, the likelihood of developing side effects is significantly greater for individuals who take oral corticosteroids. Possible side effects of corticosteroid use include weight gain, elevated blood sugar, arthritis, stomach ulcers, and a temporary reduction in immune system function. Before undergoing a facet injection, patients should be evaluated by their physician to determine their level of risk and suitability for the procedure.

What happens after a facet joint injection?

Following a facet joint injection, it is important to remain in the procedure area for a brief period of time to allow for recovery. Once the medication has had sufficient time to take effect, you will be instructed to perform activities that would typically induce pain in your back or neck. After completing these movements, you will discuss any changes in pain or discomfort with your physician.

After receiving a facet joint injection, it is crucial to monitor your pain symptoms at home and report any changes to your physician during your follow-up visit. In case, you continue to experience discomfort, you may take your prescribed pain medication as directed. Additionally, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to help improve your back strength and reduce the likelihood of future pain episodes. By closely adhering to your doctor's post-treatment instructions, you can improve your chances of achieving successful pain relief and long-term recovery.

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