Facet Injections: Back Pain Relief
What are Fact Injections?
To understand how these injections work, you need to know some facts about your spine. Your spine is made up of a column of vertebrae. Facet joints are the joints that separate each of the vertebrae. They hold the spine upright while also allowing it to flex covering a range of motions.
The 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.
The facet joints can become inflamed from a variety of reasons including osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, abnormalities of the discs or from an injury.
What are the Causes of Facet Joint Pain?
As we grow older, the condition of our joints degenerate. 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. Pain can also be a result of arthritis of the spine.
What are the Symptoms of Facet Joint Dysfunction?
The main symptom is pain. There are predominately two areas of discomfort in the spine: neck pain and lower back pain.
If the 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 is usual. This over-usage can cause 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 the back pain. If the patient feels immediate relief from the 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. Usually, this procedure is combined with physical therapy which builds strength in the surrounding muscles.
What Happens During Facet Injections?
Only after a thorough analysis of the patient’s history that includes lifestyle information, medical details, x-rays or CT scans in addition to treatment by less invasive means will the pain doctors in New Jersey or the pain doctors in New York suggest injection as the next step in your treatment plan. Since the procedure is accomplished in the doctor’s office with the assistance of anesthetic, you are able to return home soon after the procedure is completed. During the entire process, your blood pressure and oxygenation levels will be monitored.
As the patient lies face down at the pain treatment clinic, an injection of a numbing medicine is given to the area near the facet joint of concern. This anesthetises the area to reduce the feeling of discomfort. Then the pain doctor uses x-ray technology to guide a very small needle into the facet joint. Colored dye is injected to confirm that the needle is in the right area and that the medication that will be inserted, will remain in the sac that is close to the joint. Once this situation has been established, only then is a small amount of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication is introduced slowly. Since 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 search out 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?
Most patients 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.
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. Since a steroid is injected some people may gain weight, their blood sugar levels may increase, especially if they are diabetic, they may retain water, and they may experience flushing and palpitations. Rarely is the sac punctured but if this does happen there can be bleeding, infection and nerve damage. 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.
- Injections can be repeated if the pain reoccurs.
- The minimally invasive injections are done in a doctor’s office with local anesthetic.
You can return to normal activities within a day.