Facet joints are the joints in your spine that make your back flexible and enable you to bend and twist. Nerves exit your spinal cord through these joints on their way to other parts of your body. Healthy facet joint has cartilage, which allows your vertebrae to move smoothly against each other without grinding. Each joint is lubricated with synovial fluid for additional protection against wear and tear. When your facet joint becomes swollen or degenerative due to osteoarthritis, you may experience severe back pain. This is called facet joint syndrome.
Facet joint syndrome can be caused by a combination of aging, pressure overload of your facet joints, and injury. Pressure overload on your facet joints can be caused by degeneration of the intervertebral discs in your spine. As the discs degenerate, they wear down and begin to collapse. This narrows the space between each vertebra. This narrowing of the space between each vertebra affects the way your facet joints line up. When this occurs, it places too much pressure on the articular cartilage surface of the facet joint. The excessive pressure leads to damage of the articular surface and eventually the cartilage begins to wear away.
Facet injections can improve the pain experienced from facet joint syndrome. The injections are performed in the office, usually under sedation, and takes less than 10 minutes to perform. A procedure is performed using fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance for accuracy. Anti-inflammatory and pain reducing agents are then administered directly into the facet joint for pain relief.
Pain relief from this procedure is usually immediate and can last for several weeks or months A follow up injection may be recommended for you for longer lasting pain relief.