FAQs on Facet Joint Injections in Houston TX
How do you diagnose and treat the pain?
Neck and back pain is most often caused by the facet joints, located on the back area of the spine. Injuring the facet joints can be the result of an accident or something as simple as twisting or bending while lifting heavy objects or when playing a sport or engaging in some other sort of strenuous physical activity.
Actually, the one responsible for the transmission of the pain sensations from the facet joint is the medial branch nerve, commonly referred to as the facet joint nerve. When experiencing pain in the neck or back, diagnostic tests are used to reveal the cause of the pain.
The medial branch nerve, commonly referred to as the facet joint nerve is responsible for the transmission of pain signals. If tests show that these nerves are the ones causing your pain, they can be temporarily numbed with the use of a special anesthetic. But if the pain is caused by the facet joint itself, then doctors will numb the joint by injecting a mixture of cortisone and local anesthetic directly into the joint. As in the case of blocking the joint nerves, this procedure will allow for similar diagnostic information to be obtained and it can also help in treating the inflammation which causes some of your pain.
Once you know for sure that your facet joints are causing the pain, your Houston pain management physicians may recommend a specific treatment that focuses on the problematic structure. This is known as radio frequency ablation.
The treatment will involve applying a mild electric current (known as radiofrequency neurotomy) to block the facet joint nerves and also a change in your physical therapy routine. This will help relief your pain for months, if not couple of years.
How are facet joint injections performed?
When preparing for a facet joint injection, you will lay on your stomach and your back will be washed ensuring that the target area is properly sterilized. Once you are ready, the doctor will use fluoroscopy guidance to ensure that the needle is positioned to the facet joint nerve area or the exact facet joint that needs to be treated.
Though not a painful procedure, some patients prefer to be sedated when receiving facet joint injections because of anxiety. In this case a mild sedative will be administered to help you relax during the procedure but not put you to sleep. Patients are required to be awake during the injections and afterwards.
What should I know before the procedure?
It is very important to know that you are not allowed to take any pain medications on the day this procedure takes place; otherwise the diagnostic test will not provide appropriate results. Also, in order to trigger the usual pain, it is advisable to undertake physical actions, such as bending or lifting something heavier, couple of hours before your evaluation test.
What to expect after?
Once the facet joint injection procedure is done, in the next couple of hours, up to a day, you will evaluate your condition according to a pain score sheet (without taking any pain medication during evaluation) and return the results to your doctor in order for him to determine if the procedure was successful, or more examination and other types of injections are needed.