What are Cervical Facet joints?- The Anatomy

Cervical facet joints are small pairs of joints found on the back/side of your neck. They provide stability and at the same time guide motion in your spine.

Are Facet joint injections important?

Pain in the joints can subsequently result in pain elsewhere. This is especially true when your joints become painful due to arthritis, mechanical stress or injury, thereby leading to referred pain elsewhere. The cervical facet joints can cause pain in your head, neck, shoulder or even your arm.

A facet joint injection is, imperative in several ways, including diagnosing the cause and location of the pain and providing pain relief.

Diagnostic goals: By placing numbing medicine into the facet joint, the amount of immediate pain relief you experience will help confirm or deny the joint as a source of pain. Simply put, complete relief of your pain while the facet joints are numb indicates that the joints are likely to be the source of pain.

Pain relief goals: A facet joint injection typcially includes time-release cortisone to reduce inflammation. Essentially, cortisone helps decrease inflamation around the face joint to provide you with long term pain relief.

What happens during the procedure?

  • An IV line is started to ensure adequate relaxation medicine is given if needed.
  • Your are is positioned on a procedure table with access to the area to be treated.   The skin overly the treatment are is then cleansed and draped. 
  • Next, your physician proceeds to inject a small quantity of numbing agent(anesthetic) into your skin and then the affected facet joint. The purpose is to anesthetize the facet joints and subsequently block the pain. 
  • The physician uses the help of an x-ray (fluoroscopy) to direct a very small needle into the facet joint or to the nerve supplying the facet joint.
  • Also, a small amount of contrast dye is injected to ensure that the needle is in the correct location. 
  • After this confirmation, a small mixture of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medication(cortisone) is slowly injected into the joint or surrounding nerves.

Is the Facet Injection painful?

Typically, a facet joint injection is a routine procedure that is easily tolerated. However, you may experience some burning at the beginning of the procedure during the injection of the numbing medicine.

How will I feel After the Procedure?

Normally, after the procedure, you will feel some mild discomfort from the injection.  You could  experience slight weakness for a few hours. Your pain may increase after the numbing medication wears off and before the cortisone becomes effective.  You can alleviate this with the help of ice, especially during the first 2-3 days after injection.

Typically, pain relief is noticeable 2-5 days after the injection. However, if you don’t notice any improvement within ten days after the injection, it is imperative to consult your physician.

You can resume regular exercise and stretching once you notice the pain is improved. 

Are there Risks Associated with the procedure?

Certain minimal risks are involved when you undertake facet joint injections. However, the risks are minimal and similar to any procedure which involves needle placement. Such risks include an allergic reaction to the numbing agent or contrast dye.

It is imperative to inform your physician if you have any known allergies before the procedure. This can help avoid any potential risks or complications.

Cervical pain can affect your lifestyle. Contact the team at First State Spine today for an evaluation and see if your neck pain can be treated.