Bilateral facet injections are a common procedure used to provide pain relief for up to 6 to 12 months. The amount of time you experience relief may vary, with some people only feeling the effects for a few weeks and others for months or even years. If the pain recurs, additional injections can be administered. The immediate effect of the injection is usually from the local anesthetic, which wears off in a few hours.
The steroid starts to work in 2 to 7 days and its effects may last for some time. A facet joint injection is a procedure that identifies the source of irritation in the small joints in each segment of the spine. It involves using a fine needle and radiographic guide (fluoroscopy) to inject a contrast medium (X-ray dye) into or near the facet joint. The injection contains anti-inflammatory steroids and often also a local anesthetic.
Generally, the beneficial effects of steroids require 2 to 3 days to be effective, though it may take up to 5-7 days. If no change is noticed after a week, other causes of pain should be investigated. The positive result of a facet joint injection can be expected to last about four months, though doctors may recommend up to three injections per year. If you suffer from chronic back or neck pain, you may be a good candidate for this procedure.
It's important to know what to expect after receiving facet joint injections so you can prepare for the recovery process. Side effects of the injected steroid may include temporary weight gain, an increase in blood sugar (mainly in diabetics), and fluid retention. If the injection effectively blocked your pain but only for a short time, your doctor may recommend additional injections.