A facet joint block or injection is a minimally invasive procedure that numbs the facet joint to provide pain relief. Facet joints are located in pairs on each side of the vertebra in the neck and back. These joints allow for motion and provide support and stability in the spine. In addition to diagnosing the source of pain, facet block injections also provide relief from pain and inflammation.
Before the procedure, the physician will numb the skin above the facet joint by injecting a local anesthetic into the tissue.
Using an x-ray device called a fluoroscope, the physician will guide a needle through the numbed tissue into the facet joint. A contrast dye will also be injected into the joint to verify the correct placement of the needle. A combination of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory steroid medication is then injected into one or more of the facet joints. If pain relief is experienced, that is confirmation that the correct facet joint has been located.
If the procedure is successful, pain in the back or neck should disappear immediately. Once the anesthetic wears off, pain is likely to return. However, the steroid will begin taking effect within days of the injection, reducing inflammation and pain. Injections can provide relief for up to several months. Multiple injections may be necessary, but no more than three should be given in a year.