How is the procedure done?
In preparation for the procedure, the physician numbs the skin and tissue above the facet joint with an injection of local anesthetic. With the aid of an x-ray device called a fluoroscope, the physician guides a needle through the numbed tissue and into the facet joint. Contrast dye is injected into the joint to confirm the needle’s placement.
Once the needle is positioned properly, the physician injects a soothing mixture of numbing anesthetic and anti-inflammatory steroid medication. One or more facet joints may be treated. If this causes the pain to subside, it suggests that the facet joint (or joints) injected were the cause of pain.
Back or neck pay may disappear immediately after a successful injection because of the anesthetic that is administered. As this anesthetic wears off, pain may return. The steroid will begin to take effect in the days after the injection. The steroid will reduce inflammation and pain. The injection can provide relief for a span ranging from several days to several months. Up to three injections may be given per year.
What are the risks?
As with most procedures there is a small risk of bleeding, infection, nerve injury, or allergic reactions to the medication used.
Short term side effects may include:
- Weakness or numbness in nearby nerves that may last for a few hours
- Increased pain for a few days after injection, including localized pain at the injection site.
- Diabetics may have short term elevation of blood sugars.
- People prone to fluid retention may have increased fluid retention for 1-2 weeks.
Does the injection hurt?
Many people agree that the stinging/burning sensation from the numbing medicine is the most uncomfortable part of the procedure. Each person’s experience may vary.
How will I feel after the procedure?
You may feel immediate relief after the injection, with no pain. Remember to keep track of how you feel for the rest of the day. The steroid that is used often takes about two or three days to have an affect on most people and will peak in about two weeks.
Some tenderness around the localized area is common after the injection. Use an ice pack three to four times a day to help this.
Will I have restrictions on the day of the injection?
- You will not be allowed to drive for the rest of the day. An adult must be with you to drive you home.
- No heat around the injection site for the rest of the day.
- Do not take a tub bath or soak in water for the rest of the day.
- If the injection area is in your neck, you may take your medications as you normally do with a sip of water, but do not eat or drink for six hours before your procedure.
- If the injection site is in your lower back you may eat and drink as usual unless suggested differently by your doctor.
When to call your doctor
If you have severe back pain, new numbness or weakness, or signs of infection at the injection site (redness, swelling or bleeding), you should contact us right away.