Small joints located in your spine provide stability and help with the overall motion of your spine. These are the joints that allow bending and twisting of your neck and low back. These joints are called facet joints and when injured or affected by arthritis, they can cause the surrounding nerves to become inflamed and cause pain in the neck, back, hips, buttocks and legs. Facet joint injections are used to provide relief from pain, as well as confirm whether or not the facet joints are the true source of your pain. To do this, Dr Morchower will guide a needle down into this small spine joint and inject an anesthetic, or numbing medicine, into the joint. The degree of immediate pain relief will help determine the source of the pain. Once the location is confirmed, a time-released steroid is injected. The steroid, reduces inflammation and the pain associated with inflammation. This can help the pain and allow you to continuing living life.
Who are Good Candidates for Facet Joint Injections?
Facet joint injections are a great option for those with the following conditions:
- Disc Herniation – In between the vertebrae in our spine, there are gel-like discs that absorb the shock and pressures our spine encounters on a daily basis. If you receive too much impact, like in a fall, car accident, lifting heavy or other major injury, it may cause the disc to slip out, or herniate, out of place. When it protrudes out, it can hit the nerves that run alongside the spine, which can cause pain in the back, neck or extremities.
- Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) – DDD is a common condition that comes with age. Again, degenerative disc disease is a natural process of aging. With this process, the disc loses its elasticity and hydration which can cause the disc space to narrow and the disc to tear. This can also be a significant factor in back and neck pain.
- Spinal Stenosis – Arthritis and other conditions that cause abnormal bony formations and ligament thickening can cause narrowing of the spinal canal where spinal nerves run up and down the spine. This is called spinal stenosis or spinal narrowing. The narrowing within the vertebrae irritates the spinal nerves, causing significant neck, back and/or leg pain. Some people are predisposed to having spinal stenosis. Stenosis is another word for Narrowing.
- Whiplash – The quick movement and force from whiplash can cause pain in the area of the facet joints of the neck leading to chronic neck, shoulder and arm pain. Whiplash injuries are commonly the result of car accidents and sports injuries.
How is it Performed?
- As an outpatient procedure, facet joint injections are minimally invasive and typically take about 25 minutes to complete.
- “Twilight Sedation” may be used for comfort in order to put a patient to sleep during the procedure, however the patient will continue to breath on their own. Patients are able to wake up minutes after the procedure is over. For example, this type of sedation is similar to the sedation you would receive during a colonoscopy.
- The area to be treated is cleaned and a local anesthetic is injected while the patient is lying face down on an x-ray table.
- Using real time X-ray (fluoroscopy) to guide the needle, Dr. Morchower will be able to ensure proper placement of the injection into the small joints.
Immediately following treatment with facet joint injections, soreness around the injection site can be expected for a few hours. Therefore, it is recommended to rest and avoid strenuous activity for at least the remainder of the procedure day. Most are able to resume normal activities the next day. Pain relief typically begins shortly after the procedure. The duration of pain relief is variable however typically long standing pain relief is achieved.
*Individual Result May Vary*