Facet Joint Injection

The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Each vertebra has two pairs of facet joints. One pair points up and connects with the vertebrae above. The second pair points down and connects with the vertebrae below. These joints have cartilage, ligaments, and a surrounding sac of fluid to allow smooth movement. Injury to any of these structures may cause swelling and pain. The swelling may also put pressure on nerves as they exit the spinal cord. This may result in local pain or pain that shoots down the limbs. A facet joint injection is a shot directly into the joint. The shot will have a small amount of a numbing medicine (anesthetic) and/or medicine to reduce swelling. In some cases, the injection is done just beside the joint at a tiny nerve branch that supplies the joint. This is called a medial branch block. This is often done as a diagnostic test with just a numbing medicine to see if the targeted area is the source of pain.

  • Call Your Doctor

    Call your doctor if any of these occur:

    • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, bleeding, or discharge from the injection site
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Severe pain or headache
    • Fever or chills
    • Loss of bladder or bowel control
    • Progressive weakness or numbness

    If you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

  • Definition

    The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Each vertebra has two pairs of facet joints. One pair points up and connects with the vertebrae above. The second pair points down and connects with the vertebrae below.

    These joints have cartilage, ligaments, and a surrounding sac of fluid to allow smooth movement. Injury to any of these structures may cause swelling and pain. The swelling may also put pressure on nerves as they exit the spinal cord. This may result in local pain or pain that shoots down the limbs.

    A facet joint injection is a shot directly into the joint. The shot will have a small amount of a numbing medicine (anesthetic) and/or medicine to reduce swelling.

    In some cases, the injection is done just beside the joint at a tiny nerve branch that supplies the joint. This is called a medial branch block. This is often done as a diagnostic test with just a numbing medicine to see if the targeted area is the source of pain.

    Facet Joint Injection
    facet joint injection
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • What to Expect

  • Reasons for Procedure

    It is not always clear what causes back or neck pain. It may be caused by problems of the joint, nerves, or other structure, such as muscles or ligaments. A facet joint injection of a numbing medicine may be used to confirm or disprove the joint as the cause of pain.

    If the facet joint is the cause of pain, injections may be used to deliver steroid medicine to try to help control pain and inflammation.

  • Possible Complications

    Complications are rare. But, no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have this injection, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:


    • Tenderness,
      bruising
      , or bleeding at the injection site
    • Infection
    • Worsening of pain
    • Dizziness
    • Allergic reaction to the medicine used
    • Nerve injury
    • Muscle weakness
    • Headache

    Smoking
    may increase your risk of complications.


    Your doctor may
    not
    want to do this injection if you:

    • Have had pain for a short time (eg, less than 6 weeks)
    • Have not tried other conservative treatment
    • Have had success with conservative treatment
    • Have allergies to the local anesthetic, x-ray contrast, or medicines being used
    • Have a bleeding disorder or take blood thinning medicine
    • Have pain that is due to an infection or malignancy

    • Uncontrolled
      high blood pressure
      or diabetes

    • Unstable
      angina
      or
      congestive heart failure

    Talk to your doctor about these risks before the procedure.