Facet Joint Injections for Back Pain: What to Expect

Back pain is one of the foremost pain conditions in America. Sixteen million adults experience chronic back pain that limits their daily activities. Furthermore, Americans spend an average of $12 billion in health care and indirect costs due to chronic back pain. 

Many struggle to find a treatment that works for them or want to avoid taking prescription pain medicine and surgery, so their back pain persists for days, months, and, in some cases, years. 

Dr. David Wu and our team at CurePain have witnessed the immense physical and emotional toll chronic back pain has on our patients. It’s our mission to bring the right treatment to all those in our care, so we offer a comprehensive list of back pain treatments to fit a wide range of needs. 

One of our most popular treatments is facet joint injections. Here’s a closer look at how they work.

Why does your back hurt?

Your back is a complicated part of your anatomy. It’s made up of a variety of powerful muscles, connective tissues, bones, and other structures that perform important tasks every day. It allows for flexible movement, protects your vital organs and spinal column, and bears most of your body weight. 

For all its strength, your back is extremely vulnerable to painful conditions. Some of the most common causes of back pain include:

Virtually anyone can experience back pain, but you’re most at risk if you’re older, are overweight, live a sedentary lifestyle, have psychological conditions, or don’t use proper lifting techniques. 

Back pain looks different for each person. You might have mild symptoms or severe pain that keeps you from your daily life. But no matter what’s behind your back pain or the extent of your symptoms, you should never accept back pain as a part of life. 

We have treatments like facet joint injections that can help you find quick, lasting relief. 

What are facet joint injections?

Facet joint injections are a minimally invasive treatment aimed at blocking the pain signals coming from your back to your brain by injecting a local anesthetic into your spine. 

You have facet joints all along the length of your spine. These joints are the connection between the bones of your spine. Each bone has a layer of cushioning cartilage, and the joints are surrounded by a capsule of synovial fluid, reducing the friction between the bones and allowing your body to bend and twist with ease.

Nerve roots pass through the facet joints and connect the spinal cord to your arms, legs, and other parts of your body. 

Often, these facet joints and the nerves that run through them are the source of your back pain. Facet joint injections neutralize the pain signals, helping you feel less pain or be able to participate in physical therapy exercises.

What can you expect from facet joint injections?

Facet joint injections are routine, outpatient procedures. During the procedure, you lie comfortably on a table. It doesn’t require sedation, but you can talk to us if you’d feel more comfortable with a mild sedative. 

Dr. Wu begins by cleaning the treatment area and applying a gentle numbing medicine to keep you comfortable. Then, he uses fluoroscopy, which is an X-ray–guided imaging technique, to carefully guide the thin injection needle into the exact facet joint.

He injects a small amount of contrast dye to ensure that the needle is in the correct position before slowly releasing the medicine. 

The whole process should only take 15-30 minutes. Immediately following the procedure, you’ll recline comfortably for about 30 minutes. We’ll ask you to perform some basic movements that might provoke your pain to test your response to the injection. 

If the facet joints are the source of your pain, you should feel nearly immediate relief, but you should avoid doing any strenuous activity and should not drive yourself home, especially if you’ve been sedated. 

Talk to Dr. Wu about any pain medication you’re currently taking as you may need to limit your dosage the first day of your injection. 

You may experience some discomfort at the injection site and as the numbing medicine wears off, but you can manage these side effects with an ice pack and rest.

After the first 24-48 hours, you can return pain-free to your normal routine and participate in physical therapy if needed.

Are you ready to live life without back pain? See if facet joint injections are right for you. Request an appointment online or over the phone at our Torrance, California office today. 

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