If facet joints (the joints between two vertebrae) are causing your neck or back pain, this procedure can pinpoint the problem area(s). A facet block is an injection of numbing medicine into one or more of these small joints. 

UM Pain specialists use diagnostic facet blocks for patients with arthritic pain in the facet joints. The procedure’s results guide the next step in care, which may include procedures like radiofrequency ablation to disrupt the function of nerves to these joints.

Patient Information: Facet Blocks

How do I prepare for the procedure?

Your healthcare professional will provide you with full instructions for how to prepare. This information will include when you can eat prior to the procedure and what medications you can and cannot take. If you are diabetic, pregnant or taking blood thinners, such as Coumadin (warfarin) or Plavix, let your doctor know.

You should arrange to have someone drive you home from the procedure.

What happens during the actual procedure?

You will lie on your stomach in an X-ray room. Using X-ray guidance, your doctor will advance needles near the targeted facet joints along the spine. Once the needles are in the proper location, we inject a numbing medicine and remove the needles. You move to the recovery area, where our team will monitor you for about 20 minutes.

You receive verbal and written discharge instructions and you can leave with your driver after your doctor authorizes discharge.

What will I feel during the procedure?

Most people say the stinging and burning of the numbing medicine is the most uncomfortable part of the procedure (this lasts only a few seconds). You may also feel pressure during the injection.

How will I feel after the facet block?

Your pain should improve immediately after the procedure. We encourage you to move around and do your usual activities, provided they are not strenuous.

We will provide a phone number to call us the next day to report your pain relief. You could experience some local tenderness for a couple of days after the injection. Using an ice pack three or four times a day may help this. 

So you can see how much pain relief is gained by the procedure, we ask that you to hold off taking pain medication the day of your facet block. Your feedback after the procedure will guide us in deciding the next step in your treatment.

What are the risks of facet blocks?

As with most procedures, there is a risk of bleeding, infection or allergic reaction to the medications used. Some mild short-term side effects include headache, nausea or dizziness. Rare brain or nervous system complications can occur. 

You may feel some temporary numbness or weakness in your legs or arms (depending on the location of the injection) caused by the local anesthetic. If this interferes with your ability to walk safely, you will have to remain at our clinic until this resolves. You could have increased pain for a few days after the injection, including localized pain at the injection site.