15 Oct Facet Joint Injections: What Are They and How Can They Help?
The human spine is a complex piece of architecture. There are dozens of joints along the spine capable of being a source of pain. Facet joints are a good example. These can degenerate over time, leading to chronic pain. Degenerating joints can restrict movement as well. Facet joint injections are one way to treat them.
Facet joint injections are minimally invasive, which is to say that they do not require surgery. Injections are outpatient procedures that can provide relief lasting from weeks to months. How much relief you might experience depends on your particular circumstances.
More About Facet Joints
Your spine is made up of the spinal cord, vertebrae, facets, a bunch of nerves, and some cartilage. A facet joint exists where a vertebra meets up with another bony structure, such as a rib. Facet joints extend from the neck to the lower back along the lumbar spine. Each joint is surrounded by synovial fluid and protected by cartilage.
Facet joints are critical to movement. They allow the body to twist back and forth and bend up and down. Even minor inflammation can cause pain. Thus, you can imagine how debilitating back pain can be when these joints begin to break down.
What They Are, How They Work
Facet joint injections involve both an anesthetic and a steroid. The anesthetic provides immediate pain relief, although that relief may subside in a matter of hours. Meanwhile, the steroid begins to reduce swelling and keep it down. A typical patient begins noticing relief from the steroid within a couple of days.
The injection procedure itself only takes about 15 minutes. We use special equipment to determine the optimal injection site for each patient. From start to finish, patients should expect a couple of hours in the office. Post-treatment recovery time is minimal in most cases.
One of the main benefits of facet joint injections is that they can contribute to relief along multiple portions of the spine. Both anesthetic and steroid spread out following injection, making it possible to treat adjacent joints with just one injection. But again, a thorough examination is needed to determine the best injection site.
For the record, facet joint infections have shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of conditions, including:
- herniated discs
- spinal injury
- spinal stenosis
- pain associated with whiplash.
A pain medicine clinic may utilize facet joint injections to help diagnose the source of chronic back pain. The results of an injection can tell physicians a lot about causation.
The Risks Are Minimal
It is important to note that there are risks with any treatment involving steroids and injections. Although the risks are minimal with facet joint injections, they do exist. The more common side effects include bleeding, bruising, and soreness at the injection site. Although rare, injections can produce additional side effects, including:
- allergic reactions to medication
- infection at the injection site
- nerve damage.
It is our position that the most serious risks associated with facet joint injections have to do with needle placement. As such, we recommend seeking out a pain medicine clinic with proven experience in this procedure. Facet joint injections should not be left to physicians that do not specialize in treating chronic pain.
Lone Star physicians are experts in pain management. We can help you determine if injections are your best option. If you would like to know more about facet joint injections and how they might relieve your pain, contact our clinic. Make an appointment to see one of our specialists at your earliest convenience.