Facet Joint Injections
The facet joints, found on both sides of the back of the spine, can become painfully irritated or inflamed. A facet joint injection may help diagnose the source of a patient's pain. It can also relieve pain and inflammation.
What You Need to Know About Facet Joint Injections
What Are Facet Joint Injections?
Your facet joints are essential to a healthy spine. Each joint provides stability and helps aid proper motion in the body. However, facet joints may become damaged from a traumatic incident, such as a car accident, or slowly lose function from degenerative disorders like arthritis.
Facet joint injections provide relief for afflicted patients. During this procedure, doctors administer a local anesthetic or steroid medication in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar joints to block pain. These injections help patients to begin a long-term physical therapy program to promote their spine rehabilitation.
Following a facet joint injection, if the patient's pain disappears, it will help the doctor confirm that irritated facet joints were the cause of the back and spinal pain. Pairing facet joint injection treatment with radiofrequency neurotomy will also support long-term relief.
Diagnosing the source of spinal and back pain can be difficult even for certified physicians. Back pain can come from many sources, and facet joint injections are a useful treatment and diagnostic option. Facet joint injections provide long-term pain relief.
Why is a Facet Joint Injection Procedure Performed?
Facet joint injections are essential to help doctors identify the location and causes of the patients and deliver relief from chronic back pain.
Following a facet joint injection, you can give your doctor immediate feedback about whether the dose helped relieve your pain. If you confirm that your pain is gone, the doctor will know that the facet joints are the source of the pain or a primary contributor.
Facet joint injections also can provide long-term back pain relief. The injections are composed of both numbing medication and a time-release cortisone steroid to lessen inflammation in the spinal joints. By reducing debilitating inflation, a patient can begin physical therapy for a more long-term back pain solution.
How to Prepare for Facet Joint Injections
With any surgical procedure, it is imperative to understand the risks associated with the treatment and to have an honest dialogue with your physician to disclose any medications, natural health products, and prescriptions you regularly take. Some medicines may increase the risk of bleeding or have an adverse effect if paired with anesthesia.
You may have to refrain from taking even over-the-counter medications such as blood thinners or aspirin. Talk to your physician at least two weeks before a facet joint injection, so they can give you thorough instructions on how to safely prepare for your treatment.
Also, talk to your doctor about an advance care plan before treatment. This document will let your doctor or loved ones know your exact health care wishes and instructions before your surgery.
What Happens During a Facet Joint Injection Procedure?
In preparation for the procedure, the physician numbs the skin and tissue above the facet joint with an injection of local anesthetic. Typically, the surgery does not require sedation, but an IV line may help provide medical relief if needed.
With the aid of an x-ray device called a fluoroscope, the physician guides a needle through the numbed tissue and into the facet joint. Contrast dye is injected into the joint to confirm the needle's placement.
Once the needle is positioned correctly, the physician injects a soothing mixture of numbing anesthetic and an anti-inflammatory steroid medication. One or more facet joints may be treated. If this causes the pain to subside, it suggests that the facet joint (or joints) injected were the cause of pain.
Spinal injection procedures have various degrees of success, depending on the specific patient. However, combining the treatment with a consistent physical therapy routine is a favorable course for long-term back rehabilitation.
Are There Risks Associated with Facet Injections?
With any surgical procedure, there are potential risks. Some patients experience allergic reactions from the X-ray contrast or steroids and on the infrequent occasion, the local anesthetic.
Bleeding can also result from patients with underlying bleeding disorders or those prescribed blood thinners. To avoid complications, disclose all medications to your physician before surgery and discuss your family history.
There is also a low chance that patients can have a minor infection (Less than 2% of all injections). Severe injections are even more rare, occurring approximately 0.01% to 0.1% of all doses.
Some patients experience discomfort from the point of the facet joint injection, but these symptoms often are temporary. Although rare, nerve or spinal cord damage may occur from the needle trauma resulting in potential artery blockage, bleeding, or infection.
Post Facet Joint Injection and Recovery
Back or neck pain may disappear immediately after a successful injection because of the anesthetic that is administered. As this anesthetic wears off, pain may return. The steroid will begin to take effect in the days after the injection. Patients typically rest for twenty to thirty minutes following the facet joint injection and may experience a low-level of numbness.
The steroid will reduce inflammation and pain. The injection can provide relief for a span ranging from several days to several months. Up to three facet joint injections may be given per year. Patients will discuss their level of back and spinal pain following the procedure along with questions on recovery, prescription medicine, and over-the-counter medication to take.
Patients should avoid strenuous activities, driving, and taking pain medications within six hours following the injection. However, patients may be able to return to their daily routine following the administration.
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