What is a facet joint injection?
An facet joint injection is an outpatient procedure for diagnosing and treating neck, back, or extremity pain. For this procedure, a local anesthetic (numbing medicine) and corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medicine) are injected into one or more of your lumbar facet joints.
The injection can be used to diagnose or treat. An anesthetic and steroid may be injected to see if they temporarily lessen your pain. If they do, and if this helps you move better, it tells the doctor which facet joint may be causing the pain. The corticosteroid is used to treat inflammation of the facet joint.
About the Procedure
A local anesthetic will be used to numb your skin. The doctor will then insert a thin needle directly into the facet joint. Fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray, must be used to ensure the safe and proper position of the needle. A dye may also be injected to make sure the needle is at the correct spot.
Once the doctor is sure the needle is correctly placed, the medicine will be injected.
After the Procedure
You will be monitored for up to 30 minutes after the injection. When you are ready to leave, the staff will give you discharge instructions. You will also be given a pain diary. It is important to fill this out because it helps your doctor know how the injection is working.
It may help to move in ways that hurt before the injection, to see if the pain is still there, but do not overdo it. Take it easy for the rest of the day. You may feel immediate pain relief and numbness in your back for a period of time after the injection. This tells you the medication has reached the right spot.
Your pain may return after this short pain-free period, or may even be a little worse for a day or two. It may be caused by needle irritation or by the corticosteroid itself. Corticosteroids usually take two or three days to start working, but can take as long as a week. You can usually return to work the day after the injection, but always check with your doctor.
As with any procedure, there are potential risks. Although discography is designed to minimize these risks as much as possible, there is a chance that complications could occur. Be sure to discuss the possible risks with your doctor. Also, please note that not all patients are candidates for discography. For more information on specific risks, please speak with your physician.