Painful facet joints in your spine may be soothed by injecting a steroid medication into the affected joints, which is a procedure called facet joint injection. Facet joint injections can also help confirm a diagnosis of a facet joint dysfunction.

See Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar Facet Joint Injections

Depending on which facet joints are affected, pain can be located in different areas of your body. Watch: Facet Joint Injections Procedure Video

Our video walk-through can help you better understand this relatively common procedure.

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Video highlights

First, let's take a look at how your facet joints can cause back pain.

See Facet Joint Disorders and Back Pain

The above image pictures three sets of paired facet joints, which are located in the back of the spine and separate the vertebrae.

Facet joints are important because they help support the spine and enable bending and twisting movements.

See Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain

Cartilage limits the friction between the opposing surfaces of healthy facet joints.

A synovial fluid-filled capsule also surrounds each facet joint, providing an additional lubricant to reduce friction as the opposing sides rub together.

Many different conditions, such as osteoarthritis of the spine, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, and trauma may cause facet joints to become inflamed and painful.

See Treatment Options for Facet Joint Pain

The procedure

To get started with a facet joint injection, your physician will ask you to lie face down on a table.

See Selective Nerve Root Blocks (SNRB) and Facet Joint Injections

Next, your doctor will treat your skin and tissue around the facet joint that is the suspected source of your pain with a numbing agent.

Your physician will then guide a small needle into your facet joint, with the aid of X-ray guidance (known as fluoroscopy). He or she will next inject a contrast dye into the joint to confirm the needle is correctly placed.

See X-Ray

Once the needle is in the correct location, your doctor will begin to slowly inject a mixture of anesthetic, such as lidocaine, and anti-inflammatory medication, such as cortisone, into your facet joint.

If the suspected facet joint is the source of your pain, you will notice immediate pain relief after the procedure is over.

Risks and complications associated with facet joint injections

Like any medical procedure, there are potential risks and complications associated with facet joint injections. While rare, these include:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage

See Facet Joint Injection Potential Risks and Complications

Learn more:

Radiofrequency Neurotomy for Facet and Sacroiliac Joint Pain

Facet Joint Injection Pain Relief Results