Consultants who perform this procedure
Why would I need a facet joint injection?
If you have neck or back pain that hasn’t responded to other pain relief options, then your specialist may suggest this treatment to determine whether your pain is due to a problem in your facet joints.
The specific indications for a facet joint injection are few. Some patients with inflammation in their facet joints can have their pain relieved by having this procedure.
What symptoms does a facet joint injection address?
The small pairs of joints responsible for joining the bones of your spine together are called the facet joints. They allow the spine to move freely whilst remaining stable.
If having a facet joint injection helps to relieve your neck or joint pain, then it suggests that your neck or back pain was originating from your facet joints. This type of treatment may provide long term benefit or be a temporary measure, and your specialist will discuss the next and best course of action with you, to help relieve your pain on a more permanent basis.
When should you speak to your specialist about having a facet joint injection?
If you have severe, persistent neck or back pain, speak to your specialist about pain relief and they can also discuss the possibility of a facet joint injection, as well as other options with you.
How is a facet joint injection performed?
A facet joint injection is performed under a local anaesthetic and sedation. This means that the area will be numbed and you will feel comfortable and relaxed. Patients will usually be able to return home the same day.
The injection is administered into the affected area of your neck or back whilst using x-ray images or sometimes CT scans to guide them to the correct area. The anaesthetic and steroid drugs are then injected directly into your affected facet joint.
The whole procedure normally takes around half an hour.
What is the recovery like for a facet joint injection?
Your recovery from having a facet joint injection will depend on multiple factors, including your age, fitness level and the nature of your procedure.
Once you’ve recovered from the sedation, you may feel a little weak in the treated area. You shouldn’t drive home from the hospital and should have someone to stay with you on your first night.
Not all patients experience immediate pain relief from this procedure. Some may notice relief from their symptoms after a few days and some not at all.
Are there any risks/complications associated with having a facet joint injection?
As with any medical procedure, it’s possible for risks or complications to arise. Speaking with your specialist beforehand will help you avoid any adverse reactions.
A facet joint injection has a relatively low risk of serious complications happening, but the following risks and complications can occur in a small number of cases:
- Infection or bleeding at the treatment site
- Nerve damage
- Long term weakness or numbness
Possible side effects from the steroid medication can also occur, which means you may suffer short term facial flushing, increased appetite or stomach upsets.
How can I prepare for a facet joint injection?
Prior to having a facet joint injection, your specialist will discuss with you how best to prepare, as each patient is different.
Common preparations for a facet joint injection include:
- Routine blood tests, x-rays or scans as requested by your specialist
- Taking steps to stop smoking if you smoke
- Losing weight if you’re overweight
- Remaining active and doing regular exercise
The specialist will advise you on eating and drinking restrictions prior to the injection.
Are there alternatives for a facet joint injection?
Your specialist may decide that you may benefit more from a similar procedure called a medial branch nerve block. Pain management medication, physiotherapy and psychological support should also be considered.