A facet joint injection is both a useful diagnostic tool and therapeutic treatment performed frequently at our Austin office. The procedure is relatively simple and can provide months of sustained pain relief.
If you are suffering from chronic pain associated with facet joint syndrome or spinal arthritis, facet joint injections can help you manage debilitating symptoms and regain your life. These injections work by delivering an anti-inflammatory steroid and anesthetic directly into the facet joint, soothing inflammation and reducing swelling in and around the facet joint space.
Facet Joint Syndrome
Between each vertebra in the spine exists small joints known as facet joints. These joints are constantly in motion, providing both the flexibility and stability the spine needs to walk, run, twist, bend and sit. The surfaces of these joints are lined with cartilage, enabling the bones to glide easily over one another. As we age however, this cartilage gradually begins to degrade from natural wear and tear. In many cases, growths known as “bone spurs” can develop. As the cartilage between the joints wears away, friction between the bones can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including stiffness, swelling, tenderness and pain of arthritis.
While facet joint syndrome is often the result of the natural aging process, it can also arise from injury or overuse in youth. Degeneration of the facet joints can occur at any level of the spine, but is most common in the lumbar region (lower back). When facet hypertrophy occurs in this area, the individual can experience lower back pain that radiates down to the buttocks and into the upper thigh region. If facet joint degeneration occurs in the cervical vertebrae, then pain can occur in the neck and travel down into the shoulders.
How Are Facet Joint Injections Performed?
As with a number of spinal injections, facet joint injections are typically performed with the assistance of live X-ray technology (fluoroscopy) to precisely guide the needle into place. Prior to injection, the treatment area will be cleansed and sterilized with an antiseptic. With the patient lying on the procedure table, the physician will treat a small area of skin with a local anesthetic (numbing agent). Using X-ray guidance, a very small needle is then carefully guided into the targeted facet joint. First, a small amount of contrast dye will be injected to confirm that the needle is placed properly in the joint and that medication is effectively contained within the joint. Once this confirmation is complete, your physician will then inject a small mixture of anti-inflammatory medication mixed with anesthetic into the facet joint.
Following your facet joint injection procedure, you will remain in the resting area for a short period. After 15 – 30 minutes, you will be instructed to perform some simple activities and movements that would usually elicit painful symptoms. Most patients will experience immediate relief due to the numbing effect of the anesthetic. You may experience a period of time when the anesthetic wears off but the steroid medication has not yet taken effect. The steroid can take anywhere from 48 – 72 hours to being relieving pain. However, for some patients this can take up to 1 – 2 weeks.
If the desired level of pain relief is not achieved, repeat injections may be necessary. Otherwise, facet joint injections may be precursors to other complementary therapeutic measures.
Learn More about Facet Joint Injections in Austin
If you are experiencing symptoms of facet joint syndrome, please contact the Diagnostic Pain Center today to set up a consultation and diagnosis. Accurately identifying the source of your pain is the first step to getting you back to living your life to the fullest. A diagnostic facet joint injection containing an anesthetic may be performed to determine if facet joint degeneration is the cause of your symptoms.