A facet injection is a type of treatment that is applied directly to the facet joints within the body, and the administering doctor uses a medication, which works to reduce inflammation in the joints. Additionally, a facet injection lessens swelling and pain that is present due to irritation of the facet joints. The facet joints are located throughout the spine. They work by allowing the vertebrae within the spine to move against one another easily, and if there is an issue with these joints, it can cause pain within multiple areas of the spine.
The facet joints, found on both sides of the back of the spine, can become painfully irritated or inflamed. A facet joint injection may help diagnose the source of a patient’s pain. It can also relieve pain and inflammation.
Benefits and Outcomes
Those who have success from facet injections are able to decrease their pain levels by reducing the inflammation that occurs within the joints. The inflammation and swelling are the direct cause of irritation to the facet joints, and the pain that is present can be extended to areas of the body outside of the spine, such as the arms and legs. Facet injections can reduce or eliminate the pain present in each of these areas, as the reduction in inflammation within the joints will stop the pressure on the surrounding area.
While facet injection treatment has shown to be most effective when given during the initial onset of symptoms, it can be effective during any stage for some patients. Along with the steroid medication used in the facet injection, there is also a local anesthetic given, which provides the patient with immediate pain relief. The pain relief that is immediate will wear off over the next 24 hours, and the patient will generally experience mild discomfort at the injection site. However, as the medication provided through the injection begins to work, the pain will subside, and complete relief is usually found within 72 hours.
The injection is done quickly, and in most cases is can be done within 10 to 20 minutes. However, your physician will use imaging devices to find look at the area and determine if a facet injection is the right choice for your medical needs. The doctor will then provide you with information regarding injection and have you prepare for the injection. The injection is done by cleaning the area, and in some cases a numbing agent will be applied prior to the injection. However, usually, the injection is made without the use of an anesthetic prior due to one being contained within the faucet injection.
Once the injection is made, the steroid inside of the injection will start working within two to seven days, and once it is fully active in your system, it will last for many months. Some patients may need additional injections throughout the year, but they are usually given at four-month intervals, with a maximum of three injections per year.
Patients should also note that although effective, it can take a few appointments until all joints are injected, as they run throughout the entire spine and need to each have a separate injection if damage is present. By using imaging technology prior to the facet procedure, the number of injections needed can be determined, and you’ll be provided with information on what you should expect.
Conditions Facet Injections Treat
Facet injections are most effective during the first signs of pain. However, if the pain is being caused directly by the facet, the relief is generally very effective for most patients, regardless of how long the problem has been present, or the extent of the damage.
This treatment has shown to be most effective for:
- Those who are experiencing pain in the facet joints due to inflammation.
- Patients with a medical condition that causes swelling of the joints, such as arthritis.
Some medical issues are taken into consideration prior to determining if the facet injections are right for the patient. These may include the patient’s prior treatment history, weight, certain medical conditions, and the amount of cortisone that the patient’s body is able to produce naturally. There are very few side effects, if any, experienced with this treatment. The only one that is typically reported by patients is sensitivity in the area during the transition from the numbing agent to the steroid being active.