The facet joint is a synovial joint of the spine. This joint has a joint capsule, good nerve supply, articular cartilage. If injured or damaged, a facet joint can become quite painful. These joints are paired, with one on each side, and they run from the top of the cervical spine all the way down the back to the bottom of the lumbar spine.
Causes of Facet Joint Pain
There are several causes of facet joint pain, but the most common cause is degenerative arthritis of the spine. Other causes include trauma, injury, and accidents that involve the spine.
Older people are more often afflicted with facet joint pain. Whiplash injuries from motor vehicle accidents or other trauma cause chronic neck pain and headaches related to cervical facet joint discomfort.
The Facet Joint Injection
The facet joint injection is a safe, simple, and effective method for spinal pain that involves injecting steroid medication (such as cortisone) into the spine’s facet joints by a pain management doctor in Boulder, Greeley or Loveland. This is often done by fluoroscopy (x-ray guidance) so the Colorado pain doctor can identify the facet joints and guide the needle to the correct area.
The facet joint injection is done under local anesthesia or intravenous (IV) sedation. The local anesthetic is given at the beginning of the procedure, and this stings a little.
The facet joint injection is a routine procedure that is well-tolerated by patients of all ages. The patient is not completely sedated for the procedure because it is not safe to do that. The procedure only takes around 15 minutes.
Unlike the epidural steroid injection, the facet joint injection is not done in a series. Patients who receive the facet injection do not necessarily need another one. However, if one is given, the Boulder pain doctor will wait four to six weeks before administering it. Most patients return to their doctor for a follow-up visit in a month, but steroid injections are not given in a sequence.
Preparing for the Injection
To prepare for the facet joint injection, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight (eight hours before the procedure). If the doctor plans to sedate you, bring someone with you to drive you home. Also, if you take medication for heart disease or high blood pressure, be sure to take that medication the day of the procedure, but only with a small sip of water.
Discuss medications with your doctor before the facet joint injection, as some medications thin the blood and can cause excessive bleeding. These medications include Coumadin, aspirin, Plavix, Pletal, Aggrenox, Ticlid, and Lovenox.
After the Facet Joint Injection
After the facet joint injection, the local anesthetic will start to wear off. This will cause some discomfort in the area where the needles were injected. However, the steroid medication will start to take effect within 1 to 3 days, but this varies from patient to patient. Diabetic patients should pay close attention to their blood sugars, as glucose levels may be elevated due to the steroid.
After you are discharged home, you should just rest and relax. Don’t plan any heavy lifting on the day of your procedure. Also, apply an ice pack to the area to provide pain relief as the anesthetic wears off. Patients can return to work the following day, however.
Complications and Side Effects
As with any medical procedure, there are a few side effects and minor complications. The facet joint injection may cause slight flushing or sweating right after the medication is put into the body. Other side effects to the steroid include itching, rash, and nausea. However, this type of injection has a solid safety profile, and there are few major complications. The main concern is that the medication will not relieve the neck or back pain.