Intra-articular Facet Injection
Facet injections are injections of medications into the actual facet joints. Facet joints are located between each set of vertebrae in the spine from the neck to the tailbone. Facet joints allow each vertebra to move against the vertebra just above and just below it. There are many other technical names for facet joints.
Facet injections are used to reduce the inflammation and swelling of tissue in and around the facet joint space. This may in turn reduce pain and other symptoms caused by inflammation or irritation of the facet joint and surrounding structures. Usually we think of facet joint pain as primarily spine pain, though in some patients there can also be referred pain into the surrounding tissues and even into arms or legs.
All patients will need a ride home. We advise patients to take it easy for a day or so after the procedure. You may want to apply ice to the injection sites to keep it from getting sore the following day. Otherwise, you should be able to perform the activities that you could do before the facet injections and possibly more. We do not advise that you test the limits right away, but rather build up over time. Unless there are complications, you should be able to return to your work the next day. The most common thing you may feel is soreness or aching at the injection sites.
The actual injections take only about 10 to 20 minutes. The procedure involves inserting a needle through skin and deeper tissues. So, there is some pain involved but this procedure is generally well tolerated by patients.
Generally speaking, this procedure is safe. However, with any procedure there are risks, side effects and possibility of complications. The most common side effect is pain; which is temporary. The other risks involve, infection, bleeding, worsening of symptoms, spinal block, Epidural block etc. The other risks are related to the side effects of cortisone: These include weight gain, increase in blood sugar (mainly in diabetics), water retention, suppression of body's own natural production of cortisone etc. Fortunately, the serious side effects and complications are uncommon.