If you’re one of the millions of Americans that suffers from chronic back pain, you know the holidays can make your back pain even worse. Carrying all the gifts for the grandkids, stretching to put up the holiday lights, or getting stuck in the most uncomfortable chair at your in-law’s house can further aggravate your back problems. You may be able to find relief through facet injections, a procedure that relieves neck or back pain caused by inflamed facet joints.

Facet Joints

Facet joints are small joints along the back of the spine that connect the vertebra. One or more of them can be causing pain at any one time. Your doctor will conduct and exam and ask you several questions to determine which facet joints may be causing the pain. Generally, facet joint pain is be caused by:

  • Cervical facet joints, in which the pain is usually felt in the head, neck and shoulder area.
  • Thoracic facet joint, in which the pain is usually felt in the upper back or chest.
  • Lumbar facet joints, in which the pain is usually felt in the lower back, hips, buttocks, or leg.

Facet Injection Procedure

Facet joint injection is a minimally invasive procedure that is usually performed in an office-based setting. The goal of the procedure is to provide temporary pain relief to allow the patient to pursue a physical therapy and/or exercise program, which will provide long-term pain relief. During the procedure, a local anesthetic is applied to the skin to numb the area. Using imaging guidance, the physician locates the inflamed facet joint and injects the medication into or around the joint. The whole procedure is brief and usually finished within 15-30 minutes.

After a Facet Joint Injection Procedure

Most patients can walk around immediately after the procedure, and may go home after being monitored for a short time. Pain relief typically begins to occur around 2-7 days after the injection. Soreness around the injection site is common and can usually be relieved through over-the-counter medications. The period of pain relief following your injection is variable and unpredictable in each individual.

Make Your Appointment

Make an appointment with the Association of Alexandria Radiologists to learn more about the cause of your back pain and whether facet injections could be right for you.