What to Expect with Procedures

Facet Block

Facet joints are located behind, and between, your spine’s vertebras and are responsible for your spine’s motion and flexibility. After undergoing millions of turning motions every year, these joints and their layer of cartilage can break down, particularly as you get older.

Facet Blocks can help the pain you experience in your lower back, mid-back and neck area, making it easier for you to exercise and participate in physical therapy sessions. This procedure tends to be very helpful for patients experiencing axial back and / or neck pain.

Facet disease symptoms can mimic stress fractures, strained muscles and slipped discs, making a self-diagnosis tricky. Symptoms might include inflammation, lower back pain, muscle spasms, swelling and joint or muscle stiffness. Your doctor will decide if this injection is right for your condition.

There are two different types of facet blocks. One is called an intra-articular injection. This requires the placement of steroid inside the facet joint. The second is a medial branch block. In this procedure, the nerves that give the sensation to the joint areas blocked to provide pain relief. Ask your doctor which will be the best option for you.

Will the Facet Block cure my pain?

No, the procedure will help to lessen your pain, making it easier for you to participate in physical therapy to help improve your condition. How much relief, and for how long, varies among patients depending on what Facet Block was used, other medical conditions, how long you been having this problem, etc.

Are there any side effects or complications?

Yes, Facet Blocks are very safe but as with any other medical procedure, it has risk. Risks with this block are very rare, but serious complications, such as infection, allergy reaction, and nerve damage might happen.

How is a Facet Block done?

First the skin will be cleaned with a special solution; this will feel cold. Then your skin will be numbed with a local anesthetic; this will induce a stinging and burning sensation.

During the Facet Block, 1 to 4 small needles are placed and advanced to the facet joint or the medial branch (the nerve that gives sensation to the facet joint). Since the skin is numb from the local anesthesia, you might feel mild discomfort or pressure. If you feel pain let the staff know.

The time required to do the procedure varies from patient to patient, but it will usually take 15-20 minutes.

When can I go back to my normal activities?

As soon as possible. The staff in the clinic will provide you with care instructions after the injection. Please follow them. We prefer you go back to your normal activities as soon as the next day. It is very important to keep your body active.

Is it safe?

Yes, but as mentioned before, complications might occur, as well as side effects for the steroids (intra-articular injection). Rare but serious complications can occur, such as nerve damage, infection or bleeding. Our staff will discuss in detail the risk and benefits before scheduling this injection.

Will the Facet Block prevent me from having surgery?

The procedure is to lessen your pain, not to prevent surgery, since pain may or may not be the reason for the surgery. Talk to the doctor before the procedure if you have any doubts about this.

I have had a Facet Block before and it did not help. Should I do another one?

It will vary from patient to patient, but in some cases, a second could be helpful. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of another injection.

What about if the procedure does not alleviate my pain?

There are other therapies that we can use to manage your pain. Using different methods to treat your pain is the most successful way to relieve your pain and improve your quality of life. Other strategies to treat your pain include exercise, relaxation, and changing negative thought patterns can help you cope better with pain.

Who should not have the injection?

  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • If you have a severe allergic reaction to local anesthetics or steroids.
  • If you are taking a blood thinner, such as Warfarin (Coumadin), Enoxaparin (Lovenox), Clopidogrel (Plavix), etc; and your medical condition does not allow us to stop it a few days prior to the procedure.
  • If you develop fever or any infection.

Contact our office if YOU experience:

  • A severe headache
  • A fever
  • Pain that is more severe than prior to the injection
  • Increased back pain or back stiffness
  • Go to the nearest Emergency Department or call 911 if you develop any new numbness, weakness, paralysis in your arms or legs or lose control of your bladder or bowels.

More What To Expect