Overview & Procedure
A facet joint injection is a minimally invasive injection procedure that helps diagnose and treat pain caused by damaged facet joints in the spine. A facet joint is a small, bony protrusion located in between and behind adjacent vertebrae. These joints help stabilize the spine and encourage movement, like bending and twisting, to keep the back flexible. This injection technique is typically performed on patients who suffer from painful, degenerative conditions such as facet joint syndrome and spinal arthritis. During the procedure, a local anesthetic is injected near the damaged facet joints to numb the skin and surrounding tissue. Patients may opt for intravenous (IV) sedation if they are particularly anxious about the procedure.
Once the injection site is numb, the physician will insert a needle containing a local anesthetic and steroid medication into the damaged facet joints. Patients may begin to experience a mild pressure in their back. If pain is present, the physician may inject more anesthetic as needed. After the damaged facet joints have been treated with the facet joint injection, the physician will remove the needle and place a bandage over the surgical site. Patients are then sent to a separate room to recover from the procedure.
If IV sedation was used, the patient will need to have his or her vitals monitored before being released from the treatment facility. Additionally, a friend, loved one, or caregiver may need to transport the patient home. After the injection, patients may experience immediate pain relief from the local anesthetic. This usually only lasts a few hours, and some level of pain and soreness may return after the anesthetic wears off. Nevertheless, patients may begin to feel sustained pain relief about one to two days after the procedure. As with most interventional pain therapies, there is a risk of serious side effects. These side effects may include nerve damage, infection, bleeding, water retention, or temporary weight gain. Patients should call their Southwest Spine and Pain Center physician immediately if any of these complications arise.