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Facet Injections

A facet injection is a simple procedure for treating arthritic neck pain, headaches, shoulder, and back pain. This information will explain what it is. Your doctor can explain if it is for you.

What are facet joints?

Facet joints connect the vertebrae, the bones of the spine. They help guide your spine when you move. These are the joints that commonly develop arthritis, also referred to as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Facet joints are found on both sides of the spine. Each is about the size of a thumbnail. Facet joints are named for the vertebrae they connect and the side of the spine where they are found. The right C3-4 facet joint, for example, joins the 3rd and 4th vertebrae on the right side.

What is facet joint pain?

The diagram shows areas of pain usually associated with specific joints.

How do I know if I have cervical facet pain?

If you have pain in one or more of these areas when you turn your head or body, and it lasts longer than two months, you may have facet pain. Common tests such as x-rays or MRIs may not show if a facet joint is causing pain.

What is a facet injection?

In a facet injection, an anesthetic and steroid are injected into one or more of your facet joints. The injection can be used to diagnose or treat. An anesthetic and steroid may be injected to see if they temporarily lessen your pain. If they do, and if this helps you move better, it tells the doctor which facet joint is causing the pain. The steroid is used to treat inflammation of the facet joint.

How long can I expect pain relief?

How long you can expect pain relief depends on how many areas are injured, and on the amount of inflammation. Sometimes an injection can bring several months of pain relief, and then more treatment is needed. Other times, particularly if there is no underlying bone or joint problem, one injection brings long-term pain relief. If your pain is caused by injury to more than one area, only some of your symptoms may be helped by one injection.