Facet Joint Injections in Colorado
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A facet joint provides stability to the spine and allows your back to enjoy a wide range of movement and flexibility. If this joint did not exist the spine would not be rigid and able to support the body.
In old age, these joints often become inflamed and send pain signals to the brain. This pain is often excruciating and debilitating to the point that the patient does not respond adequately to oral pain medications. In these cases the patient will likely benefit from facet injections (facet joint injections).
What are facet joint injections?
Facet joint injections are injections of numbing medications into the facet joints which are intended to numb the nerves in the area of the joint and so stop pain signals to the brain.
What conditions are treatable with facet joint injections?
Facet joint arthritis occurs from injury, wear-and-tear, mechanical stress, and age. Also called facet joint syndrome, this condition leads to pain of the neck, back, hip, buttocks, or legs. The facet joint injection offers immediate pain relief to people with arthritis of the facet joints along the spine. In addition, timed-released cortisone injected into the joint decreases inflammation, which offers long-term pain relief.
How are facet joint injections performed?
Typically the doctor will use the injections diagnostically the first time and inject only local anesthetic. If this proves successful in relieving pain the subsequent procedures will consist of a mixture of local anesthetic and corticosteroid in order to provide prolonged relief.
During the procedure, the patient is placed on an exam table and may have their vital signs monitored, the area(s) to be injected are cleaned with antiseptic solution and numbed with topical anesthetic.
A thin needle is then inserted using a device called a fluoroscope (a type of x-ray machine that allows the doctor to see the needle being inserted in real time) to ensure proper needle placement. A contrast dye is usually injected to confirm the needle placement and that the medications will contact the desired nerves, the numbing medications are then slowly injected. The procedure takes between fifteen and thirty minutes, depending on the number of injections.
After the procedure has been completed the patient will remain for a period of thirty minutes for observation to ensure the treatment is working as expected.
How long do the effects of facet joint injections last?
The local anesthetic used usually provides immediate relief; this is temporary and usually wears off in twenty four hours. The steroid medications may take up to forty-eight hours before having an effect, but the relief they provide lasts for days or even weeks. After subsequent injections patients often report being pain free for months at a time.
When can I resume activity?
After the facet joint injection procedure, you should avoid strenuous activities and driving for 24-48 hours. Once your pain is improved, you can start your usual activities in moderation. We recommend you slowly return to activities over a week’s time to avoid injury or recurrence of pain.
How successful are facet joint injections for the relief of pain?
More than 75% of patients receiving facet joint injections report a significant decrease in felt pain levels, some report being pain free.