A facet joint injection is used to either diagnose or treat pain and inflammation in the facet joints of the spine caused by injury or deterioration of the joint’s cartilage.
What are Facet Joints?
The facet joints are locations in the spine where two vertebrae come together. These joints are designed to support the body’s weight and facilitate movement in the spine. Healthy facet joints are cushioned with cartilage and glide effortlessly over each other. When injury or cartilage degeneration affects a facet joint, patients may experience muscle spasms, acute back pain or limited range of movement in the spine.
Diagnosing and Treating Facet Joint Complications
Facet joint injections are typically performed on an outpatient basis in order to diagnose and treat problems with a facet joint. During the procedure, anesthesiologists carefully guide a needle into the facet joint using live x-ray technology. Patients experience little or no discomfort, as local anesthetics are used to reduce pain at the injection site.
If the procedure is being used for diagnostic purposes, the facet joint will be numbed with lidocaine. If the lidocaine alleviates the patient’s pain, a diagnosis of may be confirmed. An injection of slow-release steroids may be administered during the same procedure to treat inflammation of the joint and provide long-term pain relief for the patient. Additional steroid injections may prove beneficial every few months to maintain patient comfort.
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