Pain that comes from facet joints is known as facet syndrome. Each level of your spine has two facet joints that, together with an intervertebral disc, form each intervertebral segment. Facet joints let you bend and twist, and they’re also important for providing support and stability to your spine. If these joints become inflamed, irritated, swollen, or worn down, it can lead to pain in the neck and back. There are a number of treatment options to provide joint pain relief for patients suffering from facet syndrome, but the first step is an accurate diagnosis. Facet joint injections are an effective and minimally invasive way to accurately diagnosis facet syndrome and to help determine the most effective treatment plan.
Understanding Facet Syndrome
Facet Syndrome can be caused by a number of factors including injury, general wear and tear due to aging, arthritis, and degeneration of intervertebral discs. Additionally, when the joints get too worn down, the cartilage and fluid that help lubricate facet joints are destroyed. When this happens, it can cause pain, swelling, and inflammation.
Patients suffering from facet syndrome often have trouble twisting and bending. Many also experience pain, numbness, or muscle weakness in various parts of their body depending on which nerves are affected. For many, the pain is worse after long periods of inactivity, for example after sitting or standing too long, and tends to be worse in the morning.
Diagnostic Nerve Blocks
Nerve blocks are minimally invasive procedures where a numbing substance is injected to either treat inflammation or to address pain along a particular nerve. They can be used to help heal a nerve, to provide pain relief, or to help diagnose the source of pain. There are a number of different types of nerve blocks including facet blocks, lateral femoral cutaneous nerve blocks, peripheral nerve blocks, and sympathetic nerve blocks.
Facet blocks are injections of a local anesthetic into the neck, back, or lower back with the objective of determining whether a particular facet joint is the source of a patient’s pain. While its purpose is diagnostic and not therapeutic, for some patients this injection nevertheless helps to relieve pain for weeks or even months.
If a patient experiences complete pain relief after having a selected facet numbed, it’s a good indication that the facet joint is the source of pain. This diagnostic procedure helps to create a proper treatment plan, and for many patients, it indicates that they’re a good candidate for radiofrequency nerve ablation or rhizotomy.
Facet blocks are minimally invasive, take on average 30 to 60 minutes, and are done using just a local anesthetic. They’re an effective way to determine if a facet joint is the source of your pain and, for some patients, they effectively provide short-term relief. If you’re suffering from back pain or have questions about facet syndrome, contact us today.