FAQs on Facet Joint Injections in Colorado

 

A facet joint injection is used to provide pain relief to the spinal joints. The doctor injects the joint with a steroidal agent, with or without an anesthetic.

What are the facet joints?

The spinal facet joints are small joints located along the posterior spinal column. These joints offer stability and motion to the spine, and there are one on each side of the vertebra.

What is the facet joint used to treat?

Facet joint arthritis occurs from injury, wear-and-tear, mechanical stress, and age. Also called facet joint syndrome, this condition leads to pain of the neck, back, hip, buttocks, or legs. The facet joint injection offers immediate pain relief to people with arthritis of the facet joints along the spine. In addition, timed-released cortisone injected into the joint decreases inflammation, which offers long-term pain relief.

What will happen before the facet joint injection procedure?

When you visit the pain management specialist, he will ask you questions about your condition, take a medical history, conduct a physical examination, and do some imaging studies. You should tell the doctor what medications you take, as certain agents that thin the blood must be held for several days. Be sure to have someone to drive you home, and wear loose-fitting clothing to your appointment.

How is the facet joint injection done?

There are two facet joints along each vertebra. One or more facet joints can be injected during the procedure. A nurse reviews the risks and benefits of the procedure, has you sign a consent form and change into a gown. After the nurse starts an IV line in your arm, monitoring devices are attached to your finger and arm. Once you are positioned face-down on the table, a mild sedative is given to make you comfortable. The doctor cleans the skin over the spine, numbs the area with a fine needle and anesthetic, and inserts the procedure needle using fluoroscopy (x-ray guidance). Once position is verified, the medication is instilled into the tiny joint.

What is recovery like following the facet joint injection?

After the joints are injected, the needle is removed, and a bandage is applied. You are monitored in a recovery area for 50-75 minutes, where the nurse asks you questions about your pain levels. You may feel weak for several hours after the injection. Ice is used to help with soreness following the procedure. You are permitted to take regular medications after the procedure.

When can I resume activity?

After the facet joint injection procedure, you should avoid strenuous activities and driving for 24-48 hours. Once your pain is improved, you can start your usual activities in moderation. We recommend you slowly return to activities over a week’s time to avoid injury or recurrence of pain.

Do facet joint injections work?

In a recent randomized clinical trial, patients with lumbar facet joint pain were evaluated using visual analog scale scores, as well as functional status. Researchers found that the ultrasound-guided lumbar facet joint injection technique had high accuracy and feasibility for pain relief. In the study, with patients having reductions in pain and improvement of function. Another study where 141 facet joints were injected in 44 patients over two years, the success rate at four weeks was 94%, and 87% of patients reported pain relief after one week. Regarding long-term pain relief, the efficacy rate was 60%.

Resources

Chaturvedi A Chaturvedi S, & Sivasankar R (2009). Image-guided lumbar facet joint infiltration in nonradicular low back pain. Ind Journ Radiol Imag.

Wen CB, Li YZ, Sun L, et al. (2014). A clinical trial of ultrasound-guided facet joint block in the lumbar spine to treat facet joint related low back pain. SichuanDa Xue Xue Bao Yi, 45(4), 712-716.