What is a Facet Joint?

A facet joint, sometimes called a Z-joint, is a synovial joint that sits between two adjacent vertebrae — the bones that make up the spine. The facet joints add stability to the back and help protect the underlying nerves from injury.

When these joints swell, they can cause neck pain and another discomfort. In some cases, the damage to the facet joint may be a symptom of a degenerative disc disease.

A Facet Joint Injection

A facet joint injection allows the introduction of medication into the problem joint for pain management. It is a very common procedure typically done without sedation using a fluoroscope for guidance.

What Should I Expect?

At the beginning of the facet joint injection procedure, the patient lies face down on a table. A member of staff cleans the skin around the area before the doctor applies a numbing medication. The fluoroscope provides direction as a small needle is inserted into the problem joint. A contrast dye allows the doctor to confirm the needle is where it should be prior to the introduction of the medication to the joint.

Typically, the medication does two things:

  • Provides pain relief
  • Reduces inflammation

The whole process takes just a few minutes and the patient feels relief very quickly.

What Happens After The Injection?

The patient rests for about 30 minutes. During this time, the physicians will do movement tests to make sure the medication is helping. For example, a patient that couldn’t bend a certain way prior to treatment is asked to repeat the movement to see if it still causes pain.

The patient might notice their back feels numb for a couple hours after the facet joint injection. This is just the local anesthetic wearing off and the medication beginning to provide relief.

The recovery period is short. Since the procedure is done in the office, patients go home the same day. Unless there is a complication, most can return to work the day after the treatment.

Does The Facet Injection Hurt?

The staff does everything possible to make the patient comfortable and reduce the pain. This injection does involve putting a needle into deep tissue, though, so there may be some discomfort. The doctor uses a local anesthetic to numb the area, so mostly the patient just feels pressure, not actual pain.

Who is a Candidate for a Facet Joint Injection?

The doctor will order an x-ray of the patient’s back to determine if the facet joints appear diseased. Facet joint injections work well if the joints have obvious signs of arthritis or thickening. This is not the right treatment for someone who has typically healthy joints. It is reserved for chronic pain of the back and neck.

If you suffer from chronic pain in the back or neck, come into BackFit Health + Spine for a complete assessment to see if you would benefit from a facet joint injection.