Facet Joint Diagnosis and Treatment

What Is a Facet Joint Block (aka Medial Branch Nerve Block)?

A facet joint block involves the injection of medication into or next to the facet joint, which links bones together at the back of the spine. Facet joints allow twisting, flexion, and extension motion throughout the spine. These joints can become deteriorated, injured, or arthritic and lead to chronic pain in your neck or lower back.

How Do Facet Joint Blocks Work?

The purpose of a facet joint block is to determine if your pain comes from a facet joint. It is a diagnostic injection, and will usually be performed twice. On the first injection, if you receive 75% or greater reduction in pain relief for at least two hours, there is a high probability that the facet joint is a major contributor to your chronic pain. This will need to be confirmed with a repeat of the injection. If on both occasions your pain is significantly reduced temporarily, you are a candidate for more definitive facet joint pain treatment, such as a Radiofrequency Neurotomy.

What Should I Expect from Facet Joint Blocks?

This is a diagnostic test to determine if a facet joint is the source of your pain. You will tell us about your pain before the injection, and we will compare it to how you feel immediately afterward. In addition, you will be given a pain diary to take home and use to evaluate your pain for several more hours. It is important to respond carefully when asked about your pain so that we can most accurately diagnose the problem. We will go over your diary at your return office visit to determine if a repeat facet joint block or a Radiofrequency Neurotomy should be performed.