Facet Joint Injections
How Facet Joint Injections Alleviate Back Pain
The spine is made up of vertebrae that are connected to one another via the facet joint. It is a type of joint known as a synovial joint, and relies on cushions (discs) to operate properly. The joints exist to allow a defined range of motion and no more. What this means is that the back can turn, twist or bend to a certain degree and no further.
Facet joints are prone to damage the same as any other joint in the body. Age, arthritis and general wear and tear all put strain on the joints. When the joints are damaged, it puts pressure on the nearby nerves and pain signals are sent to the brain. There are various ways in which to treat the pain, but facet joint injections can be an absolute and total relief where others failed.
How Facet Joint Pain Starts
The joints are well served by tissues and bone that contain nerve endings. Under normal circumstances, everything that surrounds the joint works smoothly with no pain. But when damage sets in, the nerve endings in the tissues and bone are exposed. The direct result is pain to alert the brain that there is something wrong in the body.
As with all joints in the body, they can suffer damage from aging, sudden or repeated impact, and arthritis. Osteoporosis weakens the bones that create the joints, jobs with heavy lifting puts strain on the joints, and arthritis wears away at the joints and their protective layers.
Where Facet Joint Pain Happens
The pain is found anywhere in the back. It can happen in the neck, upper, middle and lower spine. It’s not unusual for the pain to be felt in one part of the back, but have its cause in another. A facet joint can lean on a nerve root that leads into the body or extremities. For an example: an individual may have shooting pain in the arm, and think the cause is a pulled muscle or strain.The real source of the pain can come as a surprise as it’s actually a facet joint putting pressure on the nerve that leads to the arm.
The nature of the cause means that the pain is chronic, and not easy to resolve. Degeneration of the joint can’t be paused or stopped once it has started, but the pain does not have to be permanent, either. There are various treatments available that address the source of the pain directly.
Treatment Options for Facet Joint Pain
There are a few different treatments available to address the pain and restore mobility. What the physician uses is dependent on where the pain is coming from, and which treatment makes sense.
Because this issue involves the spine and the spinal cord, treatment usually starts out with a conservative approach. The goal is to provide pain relief while not affecting the nearby spinal cord or nearby nerves that are unimpaired.
Treatment may begin with the use of oral anti-inflammatory medications and exercises designed to realign the spine. The goal is to get the joints to space out enough so that they don’t impinge upon the nerve, and reduce swelling. More joint space and less swelling is beneficial in that it stops the pain for longer periods of time.
In the event that conservative treatment isn’t effective, facet joint injections can go a long way towards providing long-term pain relief. The physician injects an anesthetic into the affected nerves, temporarily stopping the pain signals from being sent to the brain.