Facet joint injections are a minimally invasive treatment option for those suffering from chronic back or neck pain. The procedure involves injecting a local anesthetic and cortisone into the facet joint, which is the joint that connects the vertebrae in the spine. It is usually done to determine if the joints are causing the pain, and if so, to provide relief. The procedure begins with a small amount of local anesthetic being injected through a very small needle.
This may cause a slight pinch and burning sensation as the anesthetic numbs the skin. If any pain is experienced during the procedure, more anesthetic can be injected as needed. After the injection, some patients may experience immediate pain relief, while others may experience some pain and bruising at the injection site. This is normal and should resolve within a few days.
An ice pack or compression bandage may be given to reduce swelling. Although complications are rare, it is important to be aware of what to watch out for if they occur. Allergic reactions can range from hives or a rash to life-threatening reactions that restrict breathing. Infections can occur just under the skin, in a muscle, or in the facet joint.
Nerve damage is also possible if the needle used for the injection impacts a nerve. If increased pain occurs after the injection, it may be due to increased spasms in the muscles surrounding the injection or it could be a sign of infection. In either case, it is important to tell your doctor so that they can provide appropriate treatment. In addition to providing pain relief, facet joint injections can also help strengthen your back muscles and determine if the injection was given into the correct facet joint.
Low-impact activities such as bicycling, water aerobics, or water running are often recommended after an injection into the facet joint.If you suffer from chronic back or neck pain, you may be a good candidate for facet joint injections. Talk to your doctor about this treatment option and what you can expect.