It can be difficult and overwhelming when trying to find a solution to chronic back pain, especially when there are various different treatment options out there, each with their own pros and cons. Here we review facet joint injections, explain the eligibility criteria and the process of the injections, to help you see if it is right for you!
What is a facet joint injection?
A facet joint injection is an injection of anti-inflammatory steroids or anaesthesia into a facet joint, to numb the feeling of pain and to reduce inflammation where necessary. This type of pain relief can be given to reduce pain in the neck and back. This procedure is minimally invasive, and does not require surgery. Facet joint injections are not meant to cure back pain, rather they are a form of pain management. They provide pain relief to reduce the effect that your chronic condition has on your day-to-day life.
A facet joint is the point where two spinal vertebrae are connected, and these joints are what enable the spine to bend and move. Also known as zygapophyseal or apophyseal joints, they can suffer many issues that might cause you chronic pain. This includes degenerative disorders such as arthritis, that cause the joints to rub together when the cartilage between them dissolves. It can also be caused by twisting your back or neck in an awkward way that causes the joints to lock together (also known as facet joint dysfunction). Any time facet joints rub or lock against each other, it can cause pinched nerves or inflammation of the surrounding tissue, which is what results in the pain you feel. Facet joint injections are given at the point of pain, so that you can experience full movement of your spine again without hurting.
What is the process of a facet joint injection?
Undergoing facet joint injections is a relatively small and short procedure, and it is not as scary as it might seem.
Initially, a specialist will perform a test to determine that your facet joints really are acting as pain generators, and that the issue is not something else. This diagnostic injection is often called a block, and involves a short-term anaesthetic being injected into the problem area. If you feel pain relief as a result of this, it is likely that you are a suitable candidate for the full facet joint injection procedure, and this can occur at a later date.
You will be asked to lie on your stomach, so that the pain treatment specialist has full access to your spine and neck, to locate the area causing trouble. Your heart rate and blood rate will be monitored, to ensure your ongoing safety throughout the procedure.
Generally, patients are only locally anaesthetised for the facet injections. Local anaesthetic involves numbing the skin around the injection site, so that you do not feel any pain during the actual procedure. You will still be awake and able to communicate to the pain specialist treating you if you do feel any unusual pain during the procedure, which can then be rectified.
Once the anaesthetist is sure that you are fully prepared, the specialist will then insert the needle into your affected facet joints. Depending on your pain and your condition, this may involve injecting one or more joints with steroids and anti-inflammatory medication. Some people report feeling a slight pinching around the injection site, however this is described as a feeling of minor discomfort, due to the anaesthetic.
The actual injection process only takes a few minutes, depending on how big the area of pain is. However, you must factor in some time for testing, and preparation and discussion with the specialist prior and after the event. You cannot eat or drink anything six hours prior to the procedure, and you are not allowed to drive afterwards. All of this will be discussed further in detail with your specialists, however it is important to consider when deciding if this is the right option for you.
How do I know if a facet joint injection will help with my back or neck pain?
There are many different health conditions that affect your facet joints, and can be improved by undertaking facet joint injections. These include arthritis, sciatica, a herniated disc, or any other kind of ongoing back and neck pain that is caused by a nerve issue. Quite often, this treatment option is offered after you have tried other alternatives such as physiotherapy or oral medications, with little to no success. If you have any of these conditions and are struggling to find a treatment option that provides adequate pain relief, facet joint injections might be right for you.
The facet injections generally last up to a few months, although this is dependent on factors such as your cause and the extent of your pain. This is something that you can discuss further in-depth with your doctor, who will have a greater understanding of your specific health context, and will be able to give you a better estimate based on your condition. This type of treatment can also be used alongside other options such as physical therapy, to ensure the best outcomes for you.
If you suffer from ongoing pain but do not know the cause, the first step to any kind of treatment involves diagnosing your health issue. There are many different specialists who can determine the cause of your back or neck pain, and provide you with treatment options such as facet joint injections. If you are unsure of what is causing your discomfort, a pain doctor can help you to understand the issue, and work with you from that point to find relief.
Why is a facet joint injection better than other types of pain treatment?
When reviewing facet joint injections to determine if they are right for you, it is important to understand that this type of treatment is not for everyone. However, if you are eligible for it, many people do find it better than a lot of alternative therapies for chronic pain.
Oral pain relief medications are a common treatment method for chronic back and neck pain. However opiate pain medication can be highly addictive, and you can become tolerant, reducing the effect it has. It can also be difficult to manage if you are taking more than one type of daily medication, becoming potentially dangerous. With the joint injections, you undergo a single small procedure, and can live pain free for months at a time, reducing the inconvenience of both chronic pain and treatment for it.
Surgery may also be an option to help you battle chronic pain, however there is a longer recovery time associated with most spinal/neck surgeries, and higher risks. With facet spinal injections, the intention is to have you back to living your fullest life as soon as possible, so that you are suffering as little as possible.
Where do I go to receive facet joint injections?
As with any healthcare treatment, it is important to always go to a practitioner that is highly trained in their field, and experienced with providing patients with facet joint injections to relieve their pain. A pain treatment clinic can provide you with the best care possible, and ensure that your treatment is safe.
At Pain Treatment Specialists, we are a medical center that is focused on providing you with the best pain management treatment possible. We have a team of Ivy-league trained professionals who are dedicated to providing top quality services to our patients. Our facilities are state of the art, and we are constantly researching new and innovative ways to reduce the pain that our clients suffer from. We have many different locations throughout New York and New Jersey, making it more convenient for you to access treatment. We operate as part of the VIP Medical Group, who are experts in pain management and vein treatment throughout the NY/NJ area.