FAQs on Facet Joint Injections in Atlanta

A facet joint injection involves instilling a local numbing agent (anesthetic) into one or more small joints located on the sides of each and every vertebra of the spine. Considered a facet joint block, these injections are usually requested for patients who have pain that occurs as a result of arthritis of the spine and facet joints or for those who have mechanical low back pain.

Why is the facet joint injection done?

One or more facet joint injections are done to diagnose what area the pain is coming from. Additionally, a facet joint block is used to relieve pain, which is a therapeutic procedure.

How do I prepare for the facet joint injection procedure?

Before the procedure, discuss any medications you are taking with the doctor. He/she may have you hold blood thinning medication before the injection. For your safety, also discuss any existing health conditions with the pain doctor in Atlanta, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

You cannot eat or drink after midnight prior to the procedure, but can take usual medication with small sips of water. Before the procedure, the medical staff will give you instructions and have you sign a consent form.

Does the facet joint injection hurt?

Most people do not feel any pain with the facet joint injection. Some patients, however, report that they do feel a slight burning or stinging when the numbing medicine is instilled, but that only lasts for a few seconds.

What happens during the facet joint block procedure?

The procedure is done with x-ray guidance, which is called fluoroscopy. You may have an intravenous (IV) catheter started in your arm to give you medication to help you relax and possibly fluids. This is not always necessary.

You are positioned on your stomach, and your back is cleansed with an anesthetic solution. The doctor numbs the back using a tiny needle. Long needles are positioned into the facet joint areas along the spine. Once correct position is verified, the anesthetic agent and corticosteroid medicine are both injected. Once the needles are removed, a dry sterile dressing is applied to the needle site.

What happens after the facet joint injection?

You will be moved to the recovery area. In this room, nursing staff will monitor your vital signs and condition for approximately 30 minutes. You will be given written discharge instructions. Your pain should immediately improve following the injection, as a result of the local anesthetic.

There may be some local tenderness for a couple of days at the injection site. We advise you to use an ice pack 3-4 times a day to relieve this. You must bring a driver to take you home, and you cannot bathe or shower for the rest of the day. We recommend that you take it easy for a day or two after the injection or as directed by the doctor.

What are the risks of this procedure?

As with most minimally invasive procedures, there is a slight risk of complications. These include bleeding, nerve injury, blood vessel damage, allergic reaction, or infection. Be sure to call the pain management center if you experience any of these problems.

Am I a candidate for a facet joint injection?

Good candidates for facet joint injections include patients with arthritic facet joints who also have chronic neck or back pain with activity. Others who are good candidates include those who have injured facet joints due to whiplash or trauma, people who have had no success with conservative treatment, and those who bend, lift, and twist on the job.

Does the facet joint injection work?

Used for temporary pain relief as well as to diagnose the exact area responsible for the pain, facet joint injections are quite effective. According to a recent clinical study, the greatest efficacy of FJI was found in patients with foraminal lumbar stenosis.

In other studies, the success rate of these injections was reported at 75-85%, with patients noting both functional improvement as well as significant pain relief.