Painful facet joints in your spine may be soothed by injecting a steroid medication into the affected joints, which is a procedure called facet joint injection. Facet joint injections can also help confirm a diagnosis of a facet joint dysfunction.
Watch: Facet Joint Injections Procedure Video
Our video walk-through can help you better understand this relatively common procedure.
First, let's take a look at how your facet joints can cause back pain.
The above image pictures three sets of paired facet joints, which are located in the back of the spine and separate the vertebrae.
Facet joints are important because they help support the spine and enable bending and twisting movements.
Cartilage limits the friction between the opposing surfaces of healthy facet joints.
A synovial fluid-filled capsule also surrounds each facet joint, providing an additional lubricant to reduce friction as the opposing sides rub together.
To get started with a facet joint injection, your physician will ask you to lie face down on a table.
Next, your doctor will treat your skin and tissue around the facet joint that is the suspected source of your pain with a numbing agent.
Your physician will then guide a small needle into your facet joint, with the aid of X-ray guidance (known as fluoroscopy). He or she will next inject a contrast dye into the joint to confirm the needle is correctly placed.
Once the needle is in the correct location, your doctor will begin to slowly inject a mixture of anesthetic, such as lidocaine, and anti-inflammatory medication, such as cortisone, into your facet joint.
If the suspected facet joint is the source of your pain, you will notice immediate pain relief after the procedure is over.
Risks and complications associated with facet joint injections
Like any medical procedure, there are potential risks and complications associated with facet joint injections. While rare, these include:
- Allergic reaction
- Nerve damage