Diagnostic facet injections

By Michael Perry, M.D.

Diagnostic facet injections are used in the diagnosis and treatment of facet disease, a condition brought on by joint degeneration in the spine. The spinal facet joints, which link the vertebrae together, have a protective lining that allows for smooth motion. Years of aging and stress from movement cause this lining to dry out and wear away, leading to spinal arthritis — also known as facet disease. This can be a difficult condition to diagnose and treat because the symptoms are similar to other conditions in the spine. A diagnostic facet injection can simultaneously provide relief of symptoms while also helping a doctor pinpoint their cause.

How diagnostic facet injections are delivered

These injections are usually recommended if initial treatments for neck or back pain have not brought relief and a physical examination and diagnostic imagery like an X-ray or MRI do not give an exact diagnosis. Administering a diagnostic facet injection usually involves the following steps:

  • A local anesthetic is applied to the skin around the injection area.
  • A needle is inserted into the tissue surrounding the facet joint or joint capsule.
  • Diagnostic facet injections can deliver both a long-lasting corticosteroid and an anesthetic to temporarily relieve pain.
  • If immediate relief is experienced from the anesthetic, it is likely that the facet joint is the cause of symptoms.

Side effects of the injection are minimal, and the procedure usually takes about 30 minutes.

Other treatment options

If a diagnosis can be made, your doctor may then recommend more specific treatments, which can include physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Visit our facet disease treatments page to learn more. The good news is that many patients are able to find relief and regain enough mobility from these conservative treatments for an acceptable quality of life.

Surgery will usually be considered when weeks or months of conservative treatment do not bring hoped for relief. Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive procedures that provide a quicker recovery time and fewer risks^ than traditional open back surgery. For your no-cost MRI review* to determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures, contact us today.