What is facet joint injection?

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Facet joint injection: Overview

A facet joint injection is a shot of medicine to help with pain from arthritis. The injection goes into your neck or back. Where you get your shot depends on where your pain is.

Facet joints connect your vertebrae to each other along the back of your spine. Problems in these joints can cause long-term (chronic) pain in the neck or back.

Numbing medicine is injected into the facet joint to see if that is the cause of your pain. If it does help your pain, your doctor may add a steroid medicine to the injection. Steroids reduce swelling and pain, but they don't always work.

How can you care for yourself after a facet joint injection?

Activity

  • You may want to do less than normal for a few days. But you may also be able to return to your daily routine.
  • You may shower if your doctor okays it. Do not take a bath for the first 24 hours, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet.

Medicines

  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

Ice

  • If the site of your shot feels sore or tender, put ice or a cold pack on it for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

How long does a facet joint injection take?

The procedure takes 10 to 30 minutes.

How do you prepare for a facet joint injection?

Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.

Preparing for the procedure

  • You may need to shower or bathe with a special soap the night before and the morning of your procedure. The soap contains chlorhexidine. It reduces the amount of bacteria on your skin that could cause an infection after the procedure.
  • Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
  • Understand exactly what procedure is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your procedure. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your procedure. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the procedure and how soon to do it.
  • Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don’t have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It’s a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.

What is a facet joint injection?

A facet joint injection is a shot of medicine to help with pain from arthritis or other causes. It goes into your neck or back, wherever your pain is. Facet joints connect your vertebrae to each other. You get a shot of numbing medicine, then a steroid medicine to reduce pain and swelling.

What can you expect as you recover from a facet joint injection?

You will probably go home about an hour after your injection.

You may have numbness for a few hours. The numbness could be in your neck or back, or your arm or leg, depending on where you got the shot.

Your pain may be gone right away. But it may return after a few hours or days. This is because the steroid medicine has not started to work yet.

Steroids don't always work. And when they do, it takes a few days. But when they work, the pain relief can last for several days to a few months or longer.

You may want to do less than normal for a few days. But you may also be able to return to your daily routine. It's usually best to increase your activities slowly over time. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

After facet joint injection: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You are unable to move an arm or a leg at all.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms in your arms, legs, chest, belly, or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • You lose bladder or bowel control.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

After a facet joint injection: Overview

A facet joint injection is a shot of medicine to help with pain from arthritis. The injection goes into your neck or back. Where you get your shot depends on where your pain is.

Facet joints connect your vertebrae to each other along the back of your spine. Problems in these joints can cause long-term (chronic) pain in the neck or back.

You may have numbness for a few hours. The numbness could be in your neck, back, arm or leg. It depends on which facet joint was treated.

You may feel pain relief right away. Sometimes the pain returns after the numbing medicine wears off. Your shot may also have included a steroid. Steroids take a few days to work. And they don't work for everyone.

What happens on the day of your facet joint injection?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your procedure may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the procedure, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your procedure. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery center

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • You may get medicine that relaxes you or puts you in a light sleep. The area being worked on will be numb.
  • The procedure will take 10 to 30 minutes.

How is a facet joint injection done?

You may get medicine to help you relax. The doctor will use a tiny needle to numb the skin in the area where you are getting the facet joint injection.

After the skin is numb, your doctor will use a larger needle for the actual facet joint injection. The doctor will use computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, or X-rays to help guide the needle into the facet joint. You may feel some pressure. But you should not feel pain.

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