Facet Joint Injection
A facet block, or facet joint injection, is an advanced procedure designed to alleviate the pain associated with damage, inflammation, or nerve impingement to small joints located in the neck and back. These facet joints are responsible for supporting weight and controlling movement between individual vertebrae of the spine. Practitioners will also perform this medical technique to locate the specific areas of the spine that are responsible for an individual’s pain. Candidates for this procedure include individuals that experience reoccurring muscle spasms near the spine, have pain in certain postures, or whose back suddenly “goes out”.
Initially, patients will be given a local anesthetic to decrease the discomfort associated with the primary injection. If requested, Valium is also provided for sedation and relaxation. When the patient is comfortable, a thin needle is inserted between the lumbar facet joints directly into the effected area. A fluoroscopy machine is used during this process to assist the clinician with proper needle placement. When the physician is satisfied with the needle’s location, a mixture of anesthetic agents and steroid medications are then injected. The procedure itself takes a few minutes, with time afterwards for patient rest. If Valium is taken during the procedure, a friend or family member must provide transportation, and the patient should refrain from eating heavy foods.
If the physician is able to isolate and treat problem areas of the spine during the first treatment, a person should expect a gradual decrease in pain over the course of several days or weeks. Certain patients require multiple treatments due to numerous inflamed or damaged facet joints, which will require follow-up appointments. In some cases, the first treatment has limited affect, but helps the doctor determine the exact location on the spine that is responsible for an individual’s pain. If the injection has no affect, the doctor might determine that another factor aside from the facet joints is responsible for a person’s pain.