What is a facet joint injection?
A facet joint injection is a procedure where a doctor injections pain medication near the joint to reduce pain. Facet injections have 2 goals. The first goal is to provide pain relief, and some contain a mixture of steroids and anesthetic to minimize inflammation and lengthen the effectiveness. The second goal is to determine if the facet joint is the source of the lower back pain. If that’s the case, the doctor can recommend another procedure or treatment.
A quick and painless procedure
The shot is minimally invasive and only takes 15-30 minutes to complete. A doctor, anesthetist, or pain management specialist usually performs the procedure. First, using a topical anesthetic, the doctor numbs the skin area near the pain. Then, fluoroscopy directs the tiny needle into the facet joint. Once the hand is correctly set, the doctor injects medication into the joint.
What happens next?
After the injection, patients move to a comfortable recovery area. Then, after 30-60 minutes, the doctor may perform physical tests to gauge the patient’s pain. If the facet joint is the source of lower back pain, there should be immediate pain relief. The injection should gradually improve the pain in the coming days. Patients may feel some numbness in the lower back, and most will need assistance to get home. If there is no relief, there is a different source of the pain, and more tests are required.
Can facet joint injection relieve your lower back pain?
In the coming days, the steroid and anesthetic should relieve the lower back further. The degree and length of relief vary from patient to patient. In some cases, a patient may need a second facet joint injection. Studies show that up to 92% of patients receive some degree of pain relief. A patient can receive additional injections once the effects have worn off, not exceeding 3 per year.
Are facet joint injections the end?
If there is no relief or the effectiveness of the injections begins to wane, the doctor may suggest other options. One procedure that can help is medial branch nerve injections. Other treatments, such as radiofrequency ablation, destroy the surrounding nerves, bringing long-term relief. In severe cases, surgery can remove the affected facet joint. Facet joint injections, however, are both helpful pain management and diagnostic tools. Most patients who opt for the procedure have reduced pain and a better quality of life.