Facet Joint Injections

Proven Pain Relief Therapy for Facet Syndrome and Arthritis

Facet Joint Injections for Treating PainIf you are living with chronic, unmanageable pain from facet syndrome or spinal arthritis, these therapeutic approaches offer both a quick
resolution and long-term relief. Facet joint injection is used as a diagnostic and therapeutic tool to confirm that facet syndrome is the source of your pain. In addition, radiofrequency neurotomy (RF) may be recommended to offer the prolonged relief that you may not otherwise achieve. These procedures provide an effective treatment regimen that affords substantial, sustained pain relief. Experts in diagnosing and treating facet syndrome and arthritis, the pain specialists at National Spine & Pain Centers integrate these tools into an individualized treatment plan to help you to regain your life.

What is a facet joint injection?

A facet joint injection is a precise diagnostic tool that also provides excellent therapeutic results. Using fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance, physicians are able to see and accurately target the affected joint(s). Facet joints are the small joints located between each vertebra that provide the spine with both stability and flexibility. Facet syndrome occurs when one or more of these joints become inflamed or irritated. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage lining the joint surface shrinks and wears thin, causing stress on the bone (bone spurs), inflammation, and enlargement of the joint.

Facet joint injections combine a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid anti-inflammatory medication. This mixture relieves both pain and inflammation coming from the involved joint. A successful result supports the diagnosis that the facet joint is indeed the “pain generator” and the cause of your back pain. Because they are performed using local anesthetic, facet joint injections offer the advantage of providing immediate feedback in confirming the source of your pain.

Initially, a local anesthetic is applied, then a small spinal needle is inserted into the facet joint, and anesthetic and medication are injected using fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance.
The anesthetic makes this procedure easy to tolerate.

What is radiofrequency neurotomy?

This procedure provides a longer lasting result through thermal denervation – interrupting the sensory nerve supply to the involved facet joint. Using a radiofrequency probe, the small nerves that uniquely supply the facet joint are deadened in order to reduce pain. Radiofrequency neurotomy is performed using a local anesthetic. The physician numbs the site and, using fluoroscopy (x-ray) guidance, places a special radiofrequency needle alongside the nerves that supply the inflamed joint. The nerve is then deadened with thermal energy provided by radiofrequency.

How long does each procedure take?

Both of these procedures are safely performed on an outpatient basis. Facet joint injections take 20 to 30 minutes. Radiofrequency neurotomy takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of levels that require treatment. Each of these procedures is followed by approximately 45 minutes of observed recovery time.

How often can these procedures be done?

Facet joint injections are generally limited to three within a six-month time frame. In many instances, only one or two injections are required to obtain benefit.

Radiofrequency neurotomy or denervation is usually effective after one treatment. Radiofrequency may be repeated every one to two years, if necessary.

What are the expected results?

Facet joint injections have been performed safely for many years with very positive outcomes. In the hours following the procedure, however, you may have a sore back or neck for one to two days. It’s recommended that you take it easy the day of the procedure, but return to your usual activities the following day. The pain relief benefits from facet joint injections typically begin on the second to third day.

With radiofrequency neurotomy, most patients begin noting improvement within two weeks. Successful radiofrequency neurotomy typically provides relief for nine to fourteen months, and for some patients up to two years and beyond.

These treatment approaches offer significant pain resolution without the potential risks and down time of surgery.

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