Category: Injections | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
If your back is frequently stiff or uncomfortable and standard conservative techniques have failed to provide relief, you may need a little more hands-on help to care for your spinal discomfort. Depending on your situation, a facet joint injection may be just what you need to regain some mobility and take on some more active interventions like exercise and physical therapy. Below, we take a closer look at what you can expect from your facet joint injection procedure.
Understanding Facet Joint Injections
A facet joint injection involves a common solution aimed at providing highly targeted pain relief. The injection includes a steroid that helps to reduce swelling at the injection site, and a local anesthetic to help numb painful tissues in the area. The steroid helps to decrease the swelling that is leading to nerve compression in the area, and the local anesthetic helps to drown out pain signals that are causing you discomfort. Since the solution can be delivered to the exact spot of discomfort, relief is both quick and effective.
Not only does it provide relief from your discomfort, it also makes it easier for you to move more freely without pain. For many individuals with facet joint pain, discomfort makes it hard to exercise or strengthen the area with physical therapy or range of motion exercises. After the injection, these active solutions can be more easily pursued, taking the effectiveness of the injection to another level.
Administering Facet Joint Injections
Facet joint injections can be delivered safely and quickly by Dr. Sinicropi and the team at Midwest Spine & Brain Institute. At your first appointment, your specialist will ask about your symptoms, conduct a physical exam and may use imaging tools such as an X-ray or MRI to come up with a diagnosis. If they believe a facet joint issue is causing your pain, they’ll schedule you for an injection either later that day or at a future appointment.
When you’re ready for your injection, you’ll be taken to a treatment room and asked to lie down on a table in the position your doctor sees fit, typically either on your stomach or on your side. Once you’re comfortable, a topical anesthetic will be applied so that you don’t feel any pain during the procedure. Once that has set in, the surgeon will use fluoroscopy (a live X-ray) in order to guide a needle into position in your joint where a dye will be released so that the fluoroscopy can ensure we’re targeting the precise area. Once the exact location is confirmed, the steroid and anesthetic solution will be delivered into the facet joint before the needle is removed.
Shortly after the procedure, we may ask that you manipulate your body in different positions to ensure the correct nerves were addressed by the solution. The effects may not be complete right after your injection, but you should start to have less pain shortly after solution has been administered.
After your injection you’ll be discharged and given instructions for how to recover at home. Some patients experience mild soreness at the injection site as the local anesthetic wears off, but the anesthesia inside your body should also be getting more effective at this point, so your comfort level should continue to rise in the hours and days after your injection. Most people can return to normal activities the day after receiving their injection.
Although facet joint injections can provide relief for weeks or months, they shouldn’t be viewed as a stand-alone, long-term solution. Paired with physical therapy and other active techniques, they can help to put an end to your back pain discomfort for good, but they won’t do it on their own. Injections also tend to get less effective the more you pursue them, so really work to maximize their effectiveness after your first injection.
For more information about facet joint injections or how to care for your spine pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.