Facet Joint Injection

  • Reference Number: HEY-610/2014
  • Departments: Pain Medicine


This leaflet has been produced to give you general information about your treatment.  Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet.  It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and your doctor, but may act as a starting point for discussion.  If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team caring for you.

What is a facet joint injection?

You have probably been troubled by back pain symptoms and following discussion with your Pain Management Consultant you have been advised to have a facet joint injection.

Facet joints are small joints that exist on either side of the spine on your back. Facet joint injection involves injection of local anaesthetic with or without steroids either into the joint or close to the nerves which supply the joint.

Why do I need a facet joint injection?

A facet joint injection is done to relieve back pain which is thought to be coming from the facet joint or nerves supplying the facet joint. This will be done as a day case procedure in an operating theatre or the Day Surgery Unit.

How is the injection done?

After cleaning your back with antiseptic solution, local anaesthetic will be injected into your skin to numb it. Under X-ray screening a fine needle is introduced into your back towards the facet joints to be treated. Once the optimal position is obtained, local anaesthetic with steroid will be injected into the joint space. The number of injections will depend upon the number of affected joints.

Possible side effects.

Some patients experience mild local tenderness at the site of the injection. This usually settles over the next few days following the injection.

Very rarely, the local anaesthetic may spread causing some numbness in your legs and other areas. This is temporary and will resolve.

What to expect afterwards.

Some people find that they get relief from their pain but, after a couple of months this wears off. Others may experience complete relief. However there is a chance that the pain will not improve, change, or will get worse.

During the pain-free period you should try to gently increase your exercise. Simple activities like a daily walk, using an exercise bike or swimming on your back will help to improve your muscle tone and strengthen your back. The best way is to increase your activity slowly.

Try not to overdo things on a good day as this may result in you experiencing more pain the following day.

Follow up.

A letter will be sent to your GP and you will be reviewed either by telephone or seen at the Pain Clinic in due course.

Points to remember.

  • You will need to have arranged for someone to drive you home after this procedure.
  • Please bring your glasses if you need them for reading.
  • Always bring a list of all current medication.
  • Continue taking all your usual medication on treatment day.
  • If there is any possibility you may be pregnant please inform the doctor or nurse.

Advice to be read before your procedure.

The following information has been produced to ensure that you are able to have your pain relief procedure. It is essential that you read and follow the advice given below before you come to the hospital. If you do not follow the advice you may not be able to have your treatment.

Please contact the Pain Clinic if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are diabetic and take medication to control your diabetes.
  • (See below on how to manage treatment sessions booked for the morning or the afternoon.)
  • You have recently had an admission to hospital.
  • You have tested positive for MRSA.
  • You have an infection and are currently taking antibiotics.
  • You think you may be pregnant.

Continue your other regular medications including your pain killers except for anticoagulants (please see below).

If you take Warfarin (Marevan), Clopidogrel (Plavix), Dipyridamole (Persantin Retard), Phenindione, Pradaxa, Xarelto, Sinthrome or Asasantin Retard, please notify the Pain Clinic at least 10 days before your appointment. You will need to stop taking these drugs at least 1 week prior to the procedure unless your doctor has advised against this.

You may have to wait a while before your procedure, so please bring something to read or do to keep yourself occupied.

Please leave any valuables or jewellery at home. It is essential that after the procedure you arrange for an adult friend or relative to collect you by car or taxi. You will not be able to use the bus or train to travel home.

Hospital transport may be available if there is a medical need. If you think you may be eligible please contact the Pain Clinic.

Sometimes facet joint injections are done under sedation. You should not have anything to eat on the morning of your treatment, however you may have a drink (tea or coffee without milk) if you wish.

Advice for diabetic patients only.

If you are diabetic and booked to attend treatment in the morning, you should not have breakfast or morning medication but bring the drugs with you.

If you are booked for treatment in the afternoon please have your breakfast and take regular medications before 07.00 am. Thereafter only drink clear fluids (not milk) for up to 2 hours before the procedure. Please inform the clinic staff as soon as you arrive that you are diabetic.

What happens before the procedure?

You will be admitted by the day nursing staff who will ask for and record some information about you. Your blood pressure will be checked and you will be given a gown to put on. The doctor will explain the procedure and ask you to sign a consent form. Please make sure you have understood what has been said and feel free to ask any questions.

What to expect during the procedure.

As a precautionary measure, a cannula (a small tube) may be inserted into a vein in your arm/hand. You will be asked to lie face down on a trolley. After cleaning your back with antiseptic solution, local anaesthetic injection will be injected into your skin to numb it. Under X-ray screening a fine needle is introduced into your back towards the facet joints to be treated. You may feel some discomfort when you are having the injection.

What happens after the procedure?

You will be taken down in the trolley to the recover area where the nurse will check your blood pressure and pulse. You will be asked to rest for about an hour. After that you will be able to get up, but please check with the nurse before you do so.

Once you are mobile, you will able to go home, preferably accompanied by a friend or relative.

You must not drive for 24 hours following treatment, unless otherwise stated by your Pain Management Consultant.

What to expect when you go home.

Take it gently for a few days but gradually build up your activities. You may need to take some form of painkillers for a few days as the pain may be slightly worse until the facet joint injection starts to work.

How long will the pain relief last?

This is highly variable between the individuals. Some might notice immediate pain relief where in others it may take up to 1 – 2 weeks. However, pain relief may last from a few days to several months. Some patients do not get any pain relief from facet joint injections.

Follow up appointment.

A letter will be sent to your GP and you will be reviewed either by telephone or seen at the Pain Clinic in due course.

If you experience unusual symptoms such as an increase in pain around an injection site, fever, severe headache, new symptoms of pins and needles, new muscle weakness in your arms and legs, or you are very concerned about how you feel after the procedure, please contact your doctor.

Should you require further advice on the issues contained in this leaflet, please do not hesitate to contact Centre for Pain Medicine on telephone number: (01482) 624093 or 624040.

In the event of an emergency and outside normal working hours (9.00am – 4.00pm) of the Pain Clinic please contact your own GP.

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats you, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to you. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your condition, the alternatives available to you, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about you

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We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide you with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your doctor, or the person caring for you.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about you. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

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