Learning About a Facet Joint Injection

What is a facet joint injection?

A facet joint injection is a shot of medicine to help with pain from arthritis or other causes. The injection goes into your neck or back, depending on where your pain is.

Facet joints connect your vertebrae to each other. Problems in these joints can cause long-term (chronic) pain in the neck or back, or sometimes in the shoulders, arms, buttocks, or legs.

The injection contains a numbing medicine, which works right away for a short time. After the numbing medicine works, the doctor usually will add a steroid medicine to the injection. Steroids reduce swelling and pain, but they don't always work.

How is a facet joint injection done?

You may get medicine to help you relax. The doctor will use a tiny needle to numb the skin in the area where you are getting the facet joint injection.

After the skin is numb, your doctor will use a larger needle for the actual facet joint injection. He or she will use X-rays to help guide the needle into the facet joint. You may feel some pressure. But you should not feel pain.

The procedure takes 10 to 30 minutes.

You will probably go home about an hour after your injection.

What can you expect after a facet joint injection?

You may have numbness for a few hours. The numbness could be in your neck or back, or your arm or leg, depending on where you got the shot.

You will need someone to drive you home.

Your pain may be gone right away. But it may return after a few hours or days. This is because the steroid medicine has not started to work yet.

Steroids don't always work. And when they do, it takes a few days. But when they work, the pain relief can last for several days to a few months or longer.

You may want to do less than normal for a few days. But you may also be able to return to your daily routine. It's usually best to increase your activities slowly over time. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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