Treating Chronic Illness with Facet Block Injections

August 25, 2014


Facet joint injections, or facet blocks, are used to treat neck and back pain that is caused when the small joints of the spine, or facet joints, become inflamed.

Depending on the patient’s symptoms, an epidural, nerve root block, sacroiliac or medial branch block injection will be administered to diagnose or treat the pain.

Facet joint injections can be used to treat pain caused by conditions like arthritis and spinal stenosis, but how do they compare to the other available treatments out there?


1)      Arthritis:

Meaning “joint inflammation”, the two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is known as “wear and tear” arthritis and occurs when the cartilage surrounding joints begins to wear down. Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand happens when your immune system begins to attack and inflame your joints.

While arthritis can’t be reversed, the available treatments will work to provide pain relief, to improve the function of the joints and to keep further damage from taking place.

Facet joint injections can be administered to reduce joint inflammation caused by arthritis and will provide temporary relief from the pain and discomfort.

Other available treatments for arthritis are:

  • Viscosupplementation: this treatment involves injecting hyaluronic acid (which is found in the natural lubricant that allows bones to move over one another) to lubricate the inflamed joints and reduce pain.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation: RFA involves using an electrical current to heat up a portion of the nerve tissue to reduce pain signals from the targeted area.


2)      Spinal stenosis:

Spinal stenosis occurs when an area in the spine begins to narrow, which may put pressure on the spinal cord and the nerves in the spine. The majority of the time, spinal stenosis will occur in the lower back and at times, in the neck.

The most common cause of spinal stenosis simply has to do with the wear and tear of the spine as the body ages and symptoms can include pain, numbness and muscle weakness.

Facet block injections can be used to treat pain caused by spinal stenosis by injecting pain relieving medication directly to the area in question.

Other treatments include:

  • Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Vertebroplasty: used to stabilize compression fractures in the spine, physicians will inject a cement mixture through a hollow needle, while
  • Kypnonplasty: involves inserting a balloon to create space, before injecting the cement mixture once the balloon is removed


3)      Herniated discs:

The spinal discs absorb shock in the spine and through time, these discs can experience wear and tear.

A herniated disc occurs when one of the spinal discs burst open in the spine and this can happen as a result of advanced age, trauma or even excess body weight.

If the pain in intolerable, facet block injections can be administered to ease some of the pain caused by a herniated disc.

Other treatments for herniated discs include:

  • Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Vetebroplasty and Kyphoplasty
  • Prescribed pain medication


4)      Degenerative disc disease:

Although not actually a disease, degenerative disc disease involves the wear and tear of the spinal discs and can cause pain and even affect nerve function as we age.

Extremely variable in severity, degenerative disc disease can happen as a result of loss of fluid, tears or cracks in the outside disc layer and trauma due to injury.

Facet block injections can be used to relieve pain caused by degenerative disc disease and to reduce inflammation.

Other available treatments for degenerative disc disease include:

  • Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Vetebroplasty and Kyphoplasty
  • Prescribed pain medication


If you are one of many suffering from back pain, consult your physician to see if you are suffering from one of these conditions. Whether you have arthritis or degenerative disc disease, facet block injections just may be the right treatment for you.

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