Alleviating Cervical and Lumbar Pain with Facet Joint Injections
Back pain affects people of all ages and is most prevalent in middle-aged and older adults. It is the leading cause of disability, affecting performance at work and daily activities. The most common complaints are low back and neck pain or pain in the lumbar and cervical regions.
This is commonly attributed to strained muscles or ligaments, aging, excess weight, obesity, and the everyday grind.
However, what is not known to many is that there is a part of our spine that causes lumbar and cervical pain called the facet joints. Around 15 to 45 percent of all low back pain is accounted to facet joint syndrome and this condition is more frequent in women according to certain studies. What really causes this pain? Let us look more closely at the facet joints.
Facet Joint Anatomy
The joints in the spine are called facet joints. These joints connect each of the vertebrae to allow motion and help perform bodily functions. They are located at each vertebral level to also allow stability for each motion segment. Without the facet joints, mobility wouldn’t be possible. That is why even a minor problem with it can cause havoc.
Causes of Facet Joint Pain
Degeneration is the cause of facet joint syndrome or back pain as we know it. If one part gets damaged, the other one is affected. It is a domino effect. Aging, spinal arthritis and/or a traumatic injury are the leading causes of facet joint damage. This in time will result in back and neck pain.
Cervical and Lumbar Pains from Facet Joints
The most susceptible facet joints are the ones located in your lumbar spine. That is why low back pain is a typical complaint and is becoming a chronic condition. This is due to the lumbar spine bearing the most weight and enduring a considerable amount of strain. On the other hand, facet joints syndrome in the cervical area causes neck and shoulder pains.
Facet Joint Injections for Cervical and Lumbar Pain Management
To assist in managing the pain in our back and neck caused by problems in the facet joints, doctors are recommending the use of facet joint injections.
What are facet joint injections?
A facet joint injection consists of a numbing medication to give immediate pain relief and a time-release steroid known as cortisone to reduce inflammation. It is injected into the facet joint to determine the source of pain and to alleviate the discomfort experienced in the lumbar or cervical area.
Facet joint injections are being used to provide longer-term relief for recurring and chronic low back and neck pain.
Purpose – Diagnosis and Pain Relief
There are two purposes that a facet joint injection serves. One is as a diagnostic tool to determine if indeed the facet joints are the culprit of your pain. This is done by injecting numbing medicine into the joint and the amount of pain relief it brings will confirm or deny if the joint is the source of your pain.
Once the facet joint is determined as the source of pain, the facet joint injection containing time-release cortisone will be injected into the joints to reduce inflammation and ease the pain.
The facet joint injection is usually an outpatient procedure and is commonly done in a doctor’s clinic. The procedure is very well tolerated by the far majority of patients, however, on occasion, an oral sedative can be given to make the patient more comfortable. Since this concerns the spinal area, the patient will be asked to lie down on a bed or table. The skin over the target area will be sterilized first to be followed by a topical numbing medicine (anesthetic).
With the assistance of a live x-ray, the physician will inject several drops of contrast dye to ensure that the medicine will be directed to the joint. The mixture of numbing medicine and cortisone will be slowly injected to cap-off the procedure.
You will be observed briefly after the procedure. The doctor will ask you to move the usual area of pain and see if the pain is minimized or resolved. If all is well, you will be sent home almost immediately. You will be asked by the doctor not to drive and do any strenuous activities within the next 24 hours.
Aftercare and Monitoring Instructions
It is important to monitor your pain after the procedure. You can record the remaining pain and/or the relief you received during the next days and weeks. This will help determine the effectiveness of the facet joint injection and its longevity. It can also help assess your pain condition. This can be used as a reference for future treatments.
An odd or weak feeling in the treated area may be felt. There may also be a slight increase in pain as the numbing medicine wears off. These are just normal effects before the time-release cortisone takes effect.
Placing ice on the injection area can be helpful in the first 2 to 3 days. Improvement is usually felt 2 to 5 days after the injection.
Only take the medication prescribed by your doctor. Try not to use a pain reliever for the first 4 to 6 hours after the procedure. This should help better diagnose the pain condition.
If you are undergoing physical therapy, facet joint injections are effective to relieve yourself from pain while doing the exercises.
Facet Joint Injections in Charlotte
If you often experience and complain about back or neck pain, it could be a problem of the facet joints. Visit your doctor and have your condition checked. The best physiatrist in Charlotte, Dr. Usman Ahmad can give a thorough assessment of your condition and if needed, can recommend a facet joint injection to manage your lumbar and cervical pain.