Facet joints are on our back, and they lie on either side of our spinal column. Positioned in the area between the vertebral bodies and the discs of the back, the vertebrae lie above and below each bony structure that contains the facet joint. These facet joints are there to limit any movement that is felt to be excessive, and they also help to stabilize the spine.
Sudden movement can result in back pain that can be very severe. If there are long term stressors placed on the joint, it can result in chronic pain.
There can be a degeneration of the tissues within the facet joint itself. All these symptoms will result in what is known as facet syndrome. This is further characterized by the feeling of stiffness in the morning upon waking. Bending sideways or backwards will also make the pain worse.
To reduce the pain in these joints, facet injections are administered into the facet joint that is causing the problem. It should, however, be noted that the facet joint injection is not a cure for the pain. Rather, it is simply a method to help reduce the pain felt by the patient. Two types of medication help reduce the pain:
Anesthetic – One that is used to numb the area to receive the injection.
Steroid – Which will help to reduce the inflammation present in the joint.
The anesthetic works faster and relieves the pain almost immediately. The steroid takes longer to work, but keeps working for a number of weeks to months to keep the inflammation down, thus reducing the chances of the pain recurring again.
Duration of Therapy and Procedure
A minimum of three months is required between facet joint injections, if a repeat of the facet joint injection is desired. The facet joint injection requires the use of an x-ray, which will help to identify the area into which the injection should be administered.
During the procedure, you need to lie face down, dressed in a hospital gown. Antiseptic is used to clean the back, especially the area that will be injected. Several injections may be applied at different locations of the back, as needed. A small dressing will remain on the site of the injection after the procedure and may be kept on for about 24 hours, as a method of infection control and also for the hygienic healing of the minor injection wound.
Besides a facet injection, there is another procedure called a medial branch block that can be performed. This is an injection placed around the facet joint to stop the transmission of pain signals from the joint. It can also work for weeks to months for pain relief.
If a facet injection or medial branch block works well and then the pain relief wears off, the procedures can either be repeated, or the person may move on to a radiofrequency ablation. This procedure may provide 6 to 18 months of back or neck pain relief.
The side effects of the injection can include the feeling of having been bruised. This, however, can be overcome by taking a normal painkiller for pain relief. In just a few patients, the pain may increase and be experienced for a longer time interval before it resolves away. It is important not to engage in strenuous types of activities after the treatment. Activity levels should be built up very gradually.
The steroids administered can have side effects. These should settle down in a few days. Some examples are mild pain in the abdominal region, feeling sick, or experiencing hot flashes.
The top Pain Management Doctors in Las Vegas are with Nevada Pain. Board Certified, highly skilled and the winners of 5 Patients Choice awards in a row. Over 50 insurances are accepted and success rates with treatment are over 90%, call (702) 323-0553 for more information and scheduling.