Facet-Joint Injections: What You Need to Know

If you’re one of the 80% of Americans who experience back pain during their lives, you’re well aware of how even a little pain can make your life miserable. Chronic back pain is a common medical complaint in the United States and worldwide, affecting millions of people every year.

A lot of back pain emanates from the facet joints, located where each pair of spine bones (vertebrae) meet. Victor Mendoza, MD, and the team at Vulcan Pain Management relieve facet joint pain with injection therapy aimed at decreasing inflammation, along with pain and achiness. If you have chronic back pain, here’s what you should know about facet joint injections and whether they could be a good choice for you.

Facet joints and your spine

Most people don’t think of the spine as having joints, but it does — a whole series of them. Not only do these joints provide your back with flexibility, but they also form the openings where nerves exit the spinal canal and travel to all the other parts of your body, including your arms, legs, and organs.

Facet joints can become damaged like your other joints, usually from age-related wear and tear, repetitive use or overuse, or traumatic injuries. Just like your knees and hips, your facet joints can even be affected by arthritis, a common cause of chronic back pain as you get older.

In addition to back pain, facet joint issues can also cause pain anywhere along the path of the nerves that exit at that joint. That means if you have a problem with a facet joint, you might have pain, numbness, or weakness in your hands, feet, or other areas, too.

How facet joint injections work

Facet joint injections have two primary purposes: to treat chronic back pain and to diagnose its cause. In diagnosis, pain medicine is injected into the joint area. If the injections provide symptom relief, then Dr. Mendoza knows the facet joints are the likely source of your symptoms rather than another cause.

For treatment of chronic pain, facet injections also use pain medicine to numb painful sensations. But they go one step farther, injecting corticosteroid medicines to help reduce the underlying inflammation for long-term pain relief.

During and after your treatment

Injections are performed using a special X-ray technique called fluoroscopy to ensure the medication reaches the target zone. Before injections are given, Dr. Mendoza numbs the area so you stay comfortable. 

Treatments are performed on an outpatient basis and typically take under a half-hour. You can resume your normal activities the next day, in most cases. If the injection site is sore, over-the-counter pain relievers and ice packs can help.

Facet joint injections typically are recommended once more conservative treatments, like therapy or bracing, have failed to provide meaningful relief from pain. Injections can be repeated up to three times a year, depending on your needs.

Relieve your chronic back pain

If your chronic back pain hasn’t responded to therapy, medication, or other conservative treatment options, don’t give up: Facet joint injections could be the solution you’re looking for.

To find out more about facet joint injections at our Birmingham, Alabama, practice, call the office or book an appointment online to learn how Dr. Mendoza can help.

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