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Facet Joint Injections

The facet joints are the tiny joints situated at the upper and lower part of each vertebra connecting one vertebra to the other. Each of the vertebrae has four facet joints which include a pair that connect to the vertebra above (superior facets) and another pair that connects to the vertebra below (inferior facets). They guide motion and provide stability. Pain may arise in these joints because of an injury to the back, spinal arthritis, or because of increased stress on the backbone. A minimally invasive treatment called facet injection offers symptomatic relief of the back pain caused by inflammation of the facet joints but is not a permanent solution for the condition.

The facet injection procedure may be performed primarily as a diagnostic test to check whether the pain is originating from the facet joints. Secondly, it is used to treat inflammation caused by several spine conditions. A facet injection contains a long-acting corticosteroid and an anesthetic agent which is given either directly into the painful facet joint capsule or into the tissues near the joint capsule. The objective of the treatment is to suppress the pain so that normal activities can be resumed, and patients can perform physical therapy exercises.

Indications

Facet injection is indicated in conditions where all other conservative treatment modalities such anti-inflammatory medications, rest, back braces and physical therapy have become unsuccessful. Facet injection may reduce inflammation in the facet joints caused by conditions such as spinal stenosis, spondylolysis, sciatica, herniated disc, and arthritis. This treatment is not appropriate for patients with an infection, bleeding disorder or during pregnancy. Patients on aspirin or blood thinners will be advised to stop taking them several days prior to the procedure.