Facet joint injection overview

Facet joints are small joints that allow movement between the vertebrae of the spine. The facet joints work together with the discs in the spine to provide cushion and flexibility to the spine. Because of its pivotal role between the vertebrae, the facet joints are often susceptible to slow deterioration due to compression from the vertebrae and years of repetitive motions. As the facet joints begin to deteriorate, the vertebrae can rub together, causing the development of certain spine conditions, such as bone spurs. This progression of deterioration can lead to pain and limited flexibility in the affected area of the spine.

Patients experiencing this pain may be recommended to undergo facet joint injections to help relieve the pain and symptoms associated with a diseased facet joint. During this procedure, an anti-inflammatory steroid, usually cortisone, is injected along with a numbing agent such as lidocaine into the joint capsule or the tissue surrounding the affected joint. The goal of the procedure is to cut off pain signals between the local joint nerve and the brain, but the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisone wear off over time and injections must be repeated periodically — normally no more than three times per year.

Conditions that can lead to facet joint inflammation

A facet joint injection ordinarily will not be attempted until symptoms such as localized pain, radiating pain, tingling, numbness or muscle weakness have been treated using other conservative methods such as physical therapy, pain medication or behavior modification. If these conservative therapies have not effectively reduced the pain and symptoms associated with facet joint disease, a facet joint injection may be required. Candidates to receive a spinal injection include patients who have been diagnosed with:

  • Spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the spinal canal or the foramina (openings through which nerve roots exit the spinal cord)
  • Spondylolisthesis, which is the slippage of one vertebra over another
  • Sciatica, which is a set of symptoms associated with compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve
  • Herniated disc, which is the leakage of nucleus material from inside a spinal disc through a tear or rupture in the outer disc wall
  • Arthritis of the spine, which is the degeneration of cartilage associated with facet joints
  • Failed back surgery syndrome, which is a variety of chronic symptoms that linger after spinal surgery, or new symptoms that occur as a result of either a surgical mistake or the development of a different spinal condition

When a facet joint injection is not enough

Because the effects of a facet joint injection are temporary, many patients find themselves searching for more effective and lasting relief from chronic neck or back pain. If this is the case for you, we encourage you to research the minimally invasive procedures offered at Laser Spine Institute. We provide a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back surgery^ for patients with moderate to severe spine conditions. Contact Spine Institute today to learn more about our minimally invasive procedures.

Our minimally invasive procedures have helped more than 75,000 patients find relief from chronic neck and back pain and have earned a patient satisfaction score of 98.^ If conservative therapy such as a facet joint injection has failed to provide you with adequate relief and you are ready to get started on the next step on the road to recovery, reach out to our dedicated team today and ask for a free MRI review.* We can help you determine if you are a potential candidate for our outpatient surgery.