Facet Joint Block Injections for Back & Neck Pain Relief
Facet joints are located between each set of vertebrae in the spine from the neck to the tailbone. These joints allow each vertebra to move against the vertebra just above and below it. If the facet joints become painfully irritated or inflamed, a facet joint injection is used to reduce the inflammation and swelling of tissue in and around the facet joint space, and may relieve pain and other symptoms related to the condition. Many people may think of facet joint pain as primarily spine pain, but some patients may have pain in the surrounding tissues and even into arms or legs.
Facet Joint Injections (also known as Facet Joint Blocks) are both a treatment and a diagnostic tool. If the facet injection relieves pain, there are further treatments available to provide longer lasting pain relief, such as radiofrequency ablation.
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.
To start the procedure, the physician numbs the skin and tissue above the facet joint with an injection of local anesthetic. Then, with the aid of an X-ray device called a fluoroscope, the physician guides a needle through the numbed tissue and into the facet joint. Contrast dye is injected into the joint to confirm the needle’s placement. Once the needle is positioned properly, the physician injects a mixture of numbing anesthetic and anti-inflammatory steroid medication. The back/neck pain may subside significantly or disappear after the procedure because of the anesthetic.
After the anesthetic starts to wear off the pain may return. The steroid medication typically takes effect within two days to two weeks after the procedure to reduce inflammation and pain. The length of relief will vary anywhere from several days to several months depending upon the severity of the condition.