Learning About a Facet Joint Injection

What is a facet joint injection?

A facet joint injection is a shot of medicine to help with pain from arthritis or other causes. The injection goes into your neck or back, depending on where your pain is.

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

The injection contains a numbing medicine, which works right away for a short time. After the numbing medicine works, the doctor usually will add a steroid medicine to the injection. Steroids reduce swelling and pain, but they don’t always work.

How is a facet 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. He or she will use X-rays to help guid the needle into the facet joint. You may feel some pressure, but you should not feel pain.

The procedure can last between 10 to 30 minutes.

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

What can you expect after a facet joint injection?

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

You will need someone to drive you home.

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. When they do, it takes a few days. However, when they work, the pain relief can last for several day to a few months, or longer.

You may want to do less than normal for a few days. 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.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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