The facet joints are joints on either side of your spine at the back which link each adjacent vertebrae (the bones on your back) to each other. These joints are similar to your knee and hip joints and they can also be involved in the arthritic process.
Facet Joint Injections are used to reduce inflammation and irritation in these joints. Patients who experience pain on pressing the joint itself or whose pain increases on bending backwards are offered these injections. They are also used as a diagnostic tool, if pain decreases after the injection then this helps verify which joint is acting as the pain generator. This can be useful in planning future treatment.
We inject the facet joints both in the neck and low back, depending on where your pain is. These injections can provide relief from pain for days or even years, or in some cases, permanently.
Before the procedure
- Facet Joint Injections are done as a day case procedure.
- Do not eat or drink anything 6 hours before your facet injection
- Discontinue all medications after midnight before your injection. If you are on routine medications for heart, blood pressure or diabetes, you can take your medication as usual on the morning of your procedure with a sip of water. Diabetics can eat.
- Tell your consultant if you are on blood thinners as special arrangements will need to be made.
During the procedure
- During the procedure you will lie on your tummy.
- You will be offered some sedation so you don’t feel any pain during the procedure.
- Under X-ray control and using local anaesthetic a needle is guided into the facet joint.
- A combination of local anaesthetic and steroid is injected into the joint to reduce inflammation
- The procedure takes about 20 minutes to perform and does cause some discomfort – but this will be controlled during the procedure.
After the procedure
- You will be in the recovery room for about 30 minutes
- You will need someone to drive you home
- It is common to experience an increase in pain once the numbing medicine wears off
- The steroid does not become effective for 24/36 hours
- Activity should be restricted for the first 24 hours after the injection.
- We rarely see any problems with these injections