For people suffering from back pain, it can sometimes seem as if relief is nothing but a distant dream. However, with the formulation of new therapies and procedures, relief may be closer than you ever thought. Once a specialist or physician has diagnosed the cause of your pain, they may recommend a facet joint block as the best treatment in order to get you some relief.

Back pain - Shutterstock
Back pain – Shutterstock

What is a Facet Joint?

Facet joints are located in between the vertebrae of your spine and there are two on each side. The superior articular facets face upwards, while the inferior articular facets face downward. These joints allow the spine to be flexible and allow your body to do things such as bending over from the waist. There is a layer of connective tissues that surround each joint, and each joint produces a nourishing and lubricating fluid. The immediate surface of a facet joint is coated in a cartilage that allows the joint to slide and move smoothly without friction. In order to treat pain that is emanating from a facet joint a trained physician or specialist may perform a procedure called a facet joint block.


How is the Procedure Performed?

The procedure is often performed in a hospital or clinical setting that has a sterile environment or operating room in order to minimize the risk of infection as it is an invasive procedure. The treatment starts with the patient being administered anesthesia intravenously in order to put them to sleep so there will be no movement or discomfort while the procedure is being performed. Once the anesthetic has had the desired effect the patient is positioned on an operating table in a position that makes the spinal vertebrae visible. Next, a needle is inserted close to the spinal nerve which is viewed using x-ray technology to view the location. Once the needle has reached its desired location fluid is injected. This fluid is a mixture of a small amount of anti-inflammatory steroids and local anesthetics. Facet blocks are an effective way of treating back pain caused by facet joints.

How will I be Affected when I Wake Up?

For a few hours it is possible that there may be numbness in the legs, weakness and drowsiness. For this reason it is recommended that you have help to walk and get some rest until these symptoms have gone. It is also recommended that you do not:

  • Drive or operate machinery for a minimum of 112 hours.
  • Make any important decisions for 12-24 hours

If you happen to experience any abnormal bleeding, chills and a fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater, or a change in the amount of pain post procedure it is highly recommended that you contact your doctor right away as there may be complications.

This information is in no way intended to take the place of medical guidance and advice from an educated physician. It is in your best interest to speak to your treatment team who will be able to answer all your questions and take you through the process much more thoroughly.