Facet Joint Blocks-Cervical, Thoractic, Lumbar
Using ultrasound for guidance, injections are made into the facet joints — small joints at each segment of the spine that provide stability and help guide motion.
For cervical (neck) facet joints, the patient has been experiencing pain radiating across the neck and shoulders, and it hurts to turn the head from side to side or to look up.
The deterioration of a thoracic facet joint can cause middle back pain and stiffness.
Lumbar facet joint pain usually involves an ache radiating across the lower back and down the back of the buttocks and upper thighs; standing or bending backward usually worsens the pain.
During the Procedure
This procedure only takes a few minutes. The patient lies facedown while numbing medication and then steroids are injected into the targeted facet joint.
Discomfort during the procedure should be minimal and afterward the patient rests briefly in the office. Most people can drive themselves home, but should take it easy and not return to work or other taxing activities until the next day.
If a patient desires further sedation, that is certainly available. Usually this isn’t necessary and sedation does increase recovery time. Also, a patient must then be driven home by a second party.
Patients are advised to be aware that after the injection, pain may seem to be gone; this is due to the anesthetic and will only last for a few hours. Unfortunately, the original pain will likely return in addition to some soreness at the injection site. The good news is that in two to seven days, longer-term pain relief is possible.
Degrees of response vary widely. For a patient who has some or much improvement, additional injections may be worthwhile.