What are facet injections?
Facet joints are the small joints located at each segment of the spine. Their purpose is to provide stability for the spine and aid movement. Oftentimes, these joints can become sources of pain due to arthritis of the spine or injury. The intent of these injections is to provide temporary to long-term relief of the facet joints through the use of a local anesthetic designed to numb the area or the use of a steroid injection.
Facet injections are often used as both a diagnostic and therapeutic tool. As a diagnostic tool, facet injections can aid in the identification of the source of pain if relief is experienced. Correspondingly, with the injections pain relief is experienced.
Frequently asked questions:
Facet injections are performed in three areas of the spine; cervical facet joints, thoracic facet joints, and lumbar facet joints. The injections require the use of a live x-ray (fluoroscopy) to provide imaging and guide the needle into the appropriate and most effective area.
- Cervical facet joints (in the neck) – Pain experienced in the neck, head, shoulders, and arms.
- Thoracic facet joints (in the upper back) – Pain experienced in the upper back, chest, or arms.
- Lumbar facet joints (in the lower spine) – Pain typically experienced in the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs.
Once you arrive at the clinic you will be asked to complete a few forms pertaining to the appointment. To allow adequate time for this, please do arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment time. You may be instructed to change into a gown for your procedure.
You will be taken back to a private exam room for your procedure. One of our technologists and a Radiologist will review your previous diagnostic imaging, discuss the reason for your referral to Beam Radiology, and explain the details of the recommended pain management treatment.
Communication is very important to Beam, and you will be given opportunity to ask any questions you may have before beginning. You will be asked to lay down on the exam table, face down, and your back will be exposed. The targeted area will be cleaned and sterilized. To ensure effectiveness and accuracy, fluoroscopy will be used in real-time to guide the injection. Fluoroscopy is a type of X-ray imaging. The Radiologist will inject a local anaesthetic to numb the area, followed by a small amount of corticosteroid (medication) into the facet joint.
Following your injection, you will be directed to our recovery area for a brief observation period. One of our Nurses will review the post-procedure care with you, and then you will be free to leave the clinic.
With successful treatment, pain relief can last weeks or years. It is important to note that the steroid injected is expected to take effect between 2-5 days, with full effect or pain relief taking place between one and two-weeks post-injection. With sufficient pain relief, a physiotherapy regime is then recommended to strengthen back muscles and prevent future flare ups.
This procedure is performed using a sterile technique, very rare complications include allergic reaction, infection, and bleeding.
If you have diabetes, you may experience a temporary elevation in you blood sugar as a result of the corticosteroid (cortisone) medication. If you monitor your blood sugar, you may have to adjust your medication accordingly. Common side effects of cortisone can include temporary flushing (warmth and redness) in the face, neck, and chest, as well as temporary sleep disruption. If you experience these side effects, they will resolve on their own over the course of the week.
Keep the area clean and dry. Avoid hot tubs, pools, or baths for 48 hours. You can shower normally.
You can perform your normal daily activities but avoid strenuous activities for the next 3-4 days following the treatment.