What is a Facet Joint Injection?
A facet joint injection is an injection of an anti-inflammatory steroid (e.g., Dexamethasone or Triamcinolone) in the facet joints. The facet joints, also known as the zygapophysial joints, are part of the bony framework of the spine. They are small bony projections from one vertebra meeting with similar bony projections from the vertebra above or below. Sometimes, due to a variety of acute and chronic conditions, the facet joints can become inflamed. For lower back (lumbar) facet joints, the pattern of pain is usually an achiness in the low back, radiating across the lower back and slightly down the back of the buttocks and upper thighs. Usually, standing or bending backward worsens the pain. For neck (cervical) facet joints, the pattern of pain is an achiness in the neck, slight radiation across the neck and shoulders, and worsening symptoms with turning the head from side to side or looking up.
What are the Risks and Side Effects?
Overall, this procedure has very few risks. However, as with any procedure, there are some risks and side effects you should know about. Commonly encountered side effects are increased pain from the injection (which is usually temporary), rarely inadvertent puncture of the “sack” containing spinal fluid (which may cause headaches), infection, bleeding, nerve damage, or no relief from your usual pain. Side effects of the injected steroid may include temporary weight gain, temporary increase in blood sugar (mainly in diabetics), temporary water retention; you can discuss the steroid medication more completely when you come in for your injection. Some people experience flushing, sweating and/or palpitations for a few days.