Facet Joint Injections: What Are They and What’s the Point?

Facet Joint Injections: What Are They and What’s the Point?


Pain management has come a long way in the last 10 years. As medical science has evolved, more pain doctors are reluctant to turn to the prescription pad as the default tool for managing pain. More often, they seem willing to try other treatments when appropriate. Facet joint injections are a good example.

Facet joints are the joints that make up the spine and neck. These are critical to both posture and body strength in that they provide stability and facilitate upper body motion. Facet joints can be damaged by injury, stress, and even arthritis. Damaged facet joints can be a source of chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain.

According to the doctors at Texas-based Lone Star Pain Medicine, facet joint injections are gradually being used more often to treat a variety of back and neck issues. Indeed, they offer the injections at their Weather ford pain clinic.

What They Are

Facet joint injections are injections made directly into affected joints for the purposes of delivering an anesthetic or steroid medication. Some injections combine both anesthetic and steroids in a single dose. According to Lone Star doctors, there are two goals for the injections.

From the patient’s perspective, the first goal is pain relief. Anesthetic numbs the pain in the short term while the steroid can reduce long-term pain by reducing inflammation. Pain relief is often enough to motivate patients to try facet joint injections.

The second goal of the injections is viewed from the doctor’s perspective. Believe it or not, facet joint injections can help with diagnosis. A doctor must make an educated guess as to what joints are causing the pain based on symptoms and a limited examination. Injections tell the doctor so much more.

If a patient experiences immediate pain relief upon receiving a facet joint injection, it is a safe bet that the doctor has identified the correct joint. The same goes if complete pain relief is experienced for as long as the joint remains numbed.

Leading to Better Overall Management

Combining the two goals of facet joint injections suggests that the point here is better overall pain management. Once a doctor knows which joints are causing the patient’s chronic pain, he or she can focus treatment on those joints. That makes for better pain management.

Doctors can also vary the amounts of anesthetic and steroids they use in the injections. Steroid levels can be adjusted over time, reducing the risks inherent to them. Meanwhile, inflammation can be controlled for weeks or months at a time. This also leads to better pain management.

Not a Perfect Solution

It goes without saying that facet joint injections are not a perfect solution for every chronic back or neck problem. For example, they would not be appropriate for the long-term treatment of a herniated disc. If a herniated disc did not respond to epidural treatments, a doctor might recommend a more aggressive treatment.

To the extent that facet joint injections are appropriate, they can do wonders for patients. Some patients would prefer occasional injections to taking daily pain medication. On the other hand, there are patients who just do not do well with needles. These individuals are not good candidates for the injections.

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The one thing we can say for sure is that oral medication is not the only treatment for chronic pain. There are other ways to approach pain and pain management above and beyond prescriptions. Thankfully, more doctors are coming around to this understanding of medicine. Patients are the ones who benefit most thanks to creative new treatments that are not necessarily constrained to the pharmacological box.