What are Facet Injections?
To understand how these facet injections work, you need to know some facts about your spine. Your spine is made up of a column of vertebrae, or bones. Facet joints are the joints that connect each of your vertebrae to one another. These joints hold your spine upright while also allowing it to flex, giving you range of motion.
Your facet joint surfaces are covered with cartilage that reduces the friction between the bones of the vertebrae that form your spinal column. In addition, this joint is covered by a sac that is filled with synovial fluid that is a lubricant further reducing the friction between the bones of the spine.
Your facet joints can become inflamed in a variety of circumstances including osteoarthritis, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, abnormalities of the discs or from an injury.
What are the Causes of Facet Joint Pain?
As you grow older, the condition of your joints degenerate leading to arthritis of the spine. There can be a pressure overload due to such factors as poor posture, or excess weight. An injury can damage the joint, cartilage or the fluid sac.
What are the Symptoms of Facet Joint Dysfunction?
The main symptom that you would experience is pain. There are predominately two areas of discomfort in your spine: neck pain (cervical facet joint pain) and lower back pain (lumbar facet joint pain).
If your facet joint locks, your movement will be restricted in one direction. For example, you may be able to bend forward but not backward.
Often, you may be overcompensating as a result of your condition, and the neighboring joints may be moving more than usual. This over-usage can cause you pain as well.
You may also feel that your movement is restricted, and you will not be able to stretch fully.
What is the Purpose of the Facet Injections?
There are two main purposes for lumbar facet injections. The first is to diagnose the source of your back pain. If you experience immediate relief from your chronic pain due to the injection, then the pain doctor can be assured that the area of concern has been identified.
The second purpose is to introduce anti-inflammatory medication to the site of the issue so that healing can begin for you. Usually, this procedure is combined with physical therapy which builds strength in your surrounding muscles. If pain returns, radiofrequency ablation techniques may be considered by your pain doctor.
What Happens During Facet Injections?
Only after a thorough analysis of your medical history, which includes lifestyle information, physical examination, x-rays, MRIs or CT scans will the pain doctors in New Jersey or the pain doctors in New York suggest facet injections as the next step in your treatment plan, if necessary. Since the procedure is accomplished in your doctor’s office with the assistance of local anesthetic, you are able to return home soon after the procedure is completed.
During the facet joint injections procedure, you can expect to be positioned face-down at the pain treatment clinic, then an injection of a numbing medicine is given to the area near your skin and the facet joint of concern. This local anesthetic to the skin will reduce the feeling of discomfort. Then the pain doctor uses x-ray technology to guide a very small needle into your facet joint. Then, a small amount of local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication is administered slowly. Since local anesthetic is used, there is usually only some mild discomfort. The pain doctor in NY or the pain doctor in NJ will take the time to explain the procedure in detail and to answer all of your questions about the method.
If injections are not an option, you will be able to discuss a variety of treatments to suit your lifestyle at a pain treatment clinic.
What is the Care After Facet Injections?
When you return home, it is advisable that you rest for a number of days, but you can perform any normal activities, including returning to most work in most situations. However, you should avoid strenuous activities. You are encouraged to ice the area to reduce any swelling.
How Effective is the Facet Injection?
You may feel immediate relief due to the effects of the anesthetic. When this wears off, the anti-inflammatory drug starts to take effect in 3 to 5 days. The long-term effectiveness depends on a variety of factors and can range from permanent relief to a gradual return of the condition. The long-term effect cannot be guaranteed. However, the injection can be repeated to alleviate pain or radiofrequency ablation may be considered for you.
What are the Complications of Facet Injections?
For the majority of people, this procedure is completed with only minor discomfort, since it is relatively minimally invasive. But for some people there are side effects. The experts at the Pain Treatment Clinic will review any complications in detail and will consider your specific health conditions. The clinics are conveniently located in your neighborhood.
Key Concepts to Remember
- Facet joint injections involve the introduction of anti-inflammatory medicine in between the vertebrae of the spine to eliminate or reduce pain related to arthritis of the spine.
- Injections can be repeated if the pain reoccurs. At times, radiofrequency ablation procedure is considered.
- These minimally invasive injections are done in a pain doctor’s office with local anesthetic.
- You can return to normal activities within a day.