Facet Blocks

Facet joints are part of your spine.  They are small joints that connect adjacent vertebral bones in the back where they come together.

Facets can cause pain if they break or become arthritic.

A facet block can be done for two reasons.  It can be used to see if a particular joint is causing one's pain.  A small amount of a Novocain like drug is used to numb the joint.  If the pain goes away, it is assumed that the joint is the problem.  Facet blocks can also be done for treatment.  Injecting steroids can get rid of pain long term. 


How the block is done:

A facet joint block is done by inserting a needle into the center of the facet joint(s). During a facet joint block, you will probably be given medication to help you relax, then a local anesthetic in the skin around the area of the back where the needle will be inserted. The doctor watches on a fluoroscope as he inserts the needle to make sure it goes into the correct facet joint (a fluoroscope is a special X-ray TV that allows the doctor to see your spine and the needle). Once the doctor is sure the needle is in the facet joint, he will inject a combination of anesthetic into the joint.

What the test does, and does not show:

The test shows how your symptoms react to the injection. The anesthetic actually numbs the area around the facet joint. If all your pain goes away, the doctor can assume that the facet joint is a problem. 

It does not show anything about the nerves or the discs. It does not involve taking any pictures except to make sure the needle is in the right place.

What is facet joint radiofrequency rhizotomy?

If a short term block gives good relief, burning the nerve root with an electrical current can give longer term relief.

A very small amount of electricity is used to pinpoint the location of the nerves. Once located, more electricity is used to damage the nerve.  The electrical injury usually lasts three to six months.

Go to the next page on IDET procedures.

Go to the next chapter on major procedures.


Go to the chapter on medicines and orthotics.



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Last modified: 07/27/08