Facet Joints are small joints located between and behind adjacent vertebrae. There are two facet joints at each level of the vertebral column, providing stability to the spinal column while allowing movement. They are found at every spinal level, except at the top level of the cervical spine. Facet joints are encased with facet joint capsules, which contain fluid that protects and lubricates the joints. This complex of joints allows for flexion/extension, rotation and bending.
Facet joints are in almost constant motion and quite commonly wear out or become degenerated. When facet joints become worn or torn, the cartilage may become thin or disappear and there may be a reaction of the bone of the joint underneath, producing overgrowth of bone spurs and an enlargement of the joints. The nerve root runs directly under the facet joint, and as it becomes enlarged it can pinch the nerve root
A facet joint injection is a minimally invasive procedure that can relieve neck or back pain caused by inflamed facet joints.
There are two approaches for treating facet joint pain. First, blocking or numbing the medial branch nerves (small nerves that feed out from the facet joints in the spine) with an injection can be used as a diagnostic test to determine if the pain is actually coming from the facet joint.
The injection blocks pain in the same way a dentist uses an anesthetic injection to block pain.
The second approach for a facet joint injection is as a treatment to relieve inflammation and pain caused by various spine conditions.
Facet joint injections tend to provide temporary pain relief lasting from days to several weeks so that patients may resume normal activities and/or a physical therapy program. A facet joint injection includes both a long-lasting steroid and a numbing agent. The drugs are delivered to the painful facet joint inside the joint space.