Injections as Facet Disease Treatment
Facet disease treatment is geared toward alleviating symptoms such as stiffness, tenderness, and back or neck pain. This can usually be achieved through a combination of conservative methods, such as anti-inflammatory medicine and stretching. However, some patients continue to experience chronic discomfort despite several weeks or months of conservative treatment. Before resorting to surgery, many of these patients turn to epidural injections for relief.
How Injections Work as Facet Disease Treatment
There are two purposes for injections when dealing with facet disease, which is the deterioration of cartilage that lines the vertebral joints. The first use for injections is to diagnose the location of joint deterioration, which can done by injecting a numbing agent into the area surrounding the facet joint that is believed to be affected. If the pain subsides, that's an indication that the symptoms originate with the associated joint.
Another diagnostic use for injections is referred to as a medial branch nerve block. This injection temporarily interrupts pain signals to the tiny nerve endings that feed into a specific facet joint. If the injection relieves pain, it might mean the patient is a candidate for facet rhizotomy, a separate procedure in which an electrical current is used to deaden nerves.
The second, non-diagnostic use for injections is to temporarily relieve inflammation and pain by injecting a combination of corticosteroid solution and an anesthetic numbing agent. The injection can either be made into the joint capsule, or into soft tissue surrounding the joint. Because the effects of these injections are temporary, a patient may require a series of treatments over several months.
Potential Side Effects
There are relatively few major risks associated with injections as a facet disease treatment. The most potentially serious side effects are allergic reactions and nerve damage, although both of these are rare. Other risks include a mild ache at the point of injection, infection, and headache. Some patients may also experience weight gain, water retention, and insomnia while taking corticosteroids.