Facet injections are a minimally invasive pain management treatment for chronic neck and back pain. It is an effective pain treatment for facet joint syndrome, an arthritis-like condition of the spine that can be a significant source of pain. Novus Spine & Pain Center has been a leader in Lakeland, Florida, in back and neck pain management since 2017.
When the cartilage inside the spine’s facet joints breaks down, it can become inflamed and trigger pain signals in nearby nerve endings. Pain from one or more facet joints is called facet joint syndrome or facet arthropathy (joint disease).
A facet joint injection of local anesthetics and steroids can help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. The procedure is sometimes called a “facet block” because the injection helps block pain.
Facet injections are a minimally invasive, non-surgical pain treatment option to help block nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
The spine is made of a column of moveable, connected bones (vertebrae) that function as a three-joint complex. Each segment of the spine has a large disc in the front and two thumbnail-sized facet joints in the back in a tripod-type arrangement. Over 40 of these joints in the spine keep the bones together while allowing the spine an incredible range of bending, flexing, and twisting motions.
The facet joints are enclosed in a protective capsule, lined with cartilage, and lubricated in a fluid (synovia) to reduce friction. Healthy facet joints glide and slide as the back moves but are susceptible to arthritis, just like other cartilage joints. Facet joints can become painful due to arthritis of the spine, a back injury, or mechanical stress to the back.
A cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), or lumbar (lower back) facet joint injection involves injecting a small amount of local anesthetic (a numbing agent) along with a steroid medication to anesthetize the facet joints and block pain signals from reaching the brain.
Facet injections are primarily meant to treat back or neck pain. The pain relief is intended to help a patient better tolerate physical therapy to rehabilitate their injury or back condition. The injections’ success rate is very high, and the pain relief may last for a few weeks to months. Injections can be repeated three times a year.
Doctors can use facet injections to accomplish two goals:
Diagnostic. The numbing medicine can provide immediate pain relief to determine if a specific facet joint is a pain source. If the injection provides complete pain relief, that joint is most likely the source of pain.
Pain relief. Along with the numbing medication, a facet joint injection also includes a time-release steroid (cortisone) to help reduce inflammation to provide pain relief.
More than 75% of patients receiving facet joint injections report a significant decrease in pain, with some reporting no pain.
Conditions Treated with Facet Injections
Facet joint syndrome can occur as a result of injury, wear-and-tear, mechanical stress, or age. The pain treatment is most commonly used to treat neck and back pain resulting from arthritis of the back (facet joints). Sometimes, facet joints can cause pain in the hip, buttocks, or legs.
Although arthritis in the back is the most common condition treated with facet injections, other conditions that may benefit from facet injections include:
Facet injections bring about rapid pain relief for most patients.
How Does a Facet Injection Work?
Doctors use fluoroscopy (a continuous X-ray image) to ensure proper placement of the needle before the injection of the medicine. The local anesthetic has an immediate effect which wears off after a few hours. The steroid (cortisone) begins working over the next few days. The pain relief from the steroid can last up to a few months.
If the injection effectively reduces or alleviates the pain, the procedure can be repeated up to three times per year. The limit on the number of injections is because the steroids in the injection can mimic the effects of the body’s natural hormones cortisone and hydrocortisone. Repeatedly applying steroids to the same area of the body may weaken spinal bones and nearby muscles.
Following treatment, even when the pain improves significantly, patients should slowly increase activities and begin regular exercise gradually over a couple of weeks to avoid a recurrence of pain.
What is the Difference Between a Facet Injection and an Epidural Injection?
Facet injections treat back or neck pain, while epidural injections treat pinched nerves in the back that may result from a herniated disc causing sciatica or spinal stenosis. Both types of injections have success rates of 75% or higher for their intended purpose.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and treats patients with chronic pain with numerous therapies, including facet injections. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle while minimizing the need for opiates.