Facet joint injections may be recommended for either diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. Also known as a facet block, this highly precise outpatient procedure can provide immediate feedback to help a physician confirm that a specific facet joint is causing a patient’s neck or back pain. Additionally, a facet block can potentially provide significant pain reduction without the risks and downtime typically associated with spine surgery.
What is a facet block?
When performing a facet block, a physician inserts a small needle into a facet joint that is believed to be damaged or inflamed. Sometimes, fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance is used for enhanced accuracy. The physician then injects a mixture of a local anesthetic and time-release steroid medication to numb the joint, reduce inflammation and block pain.
Facet joint injections usually involve the following steps:
- The patient lies face down on a procedure table in a physician’s office or fluoroscopy suite.
- The skin at the injection site is carefully cleansed.
- The physician applies a numbing agent to the injection site.
- The physician guides a small needle into the targeted facet joint.
- The physician injects a small amount of contrast dye to confirm that the needle is correctly positioned and the medication is contained within the joint.
- Following this confirmation, the physician slowly injects a mixture of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medications.
What is the expected result?
Immediately after receiving a facet block, a patient may experience some temporary soreness at the injection site (ice applications and over-the-counter pain-relieving medications can help). If the treated facet joint was the “pain generator,” the patient will likely begin to notice an improvement in his or her symptoms within a few days. At that time, most patients are encouraged to begin a regular exercise program in moderation, which can further enhance the beneficial effects of an injection.
If you have neck or back pain and would like to learn more about facet joint injections, you are encouraged to explore your treatment options with your physician.