What are lumbar facet joints?

Facet joints connect the vertebrae, the bones of the spine. They help guide your spine when you move. The neck area of the spine is called the lumbar region. It contains five vertebrae. Facet joints are found on both sides of the spine. Each is about the size of a thumbnail. Lumbar facet joints are named for the vertebrae they connect and the side of the spine where they are found. The left L4-5 facet joint, for example joins the 4th and 5th vertebrae on the left side.

What is lumbar facet joint pain?

You may feel pain if a lumbar facet joint is injured. Sometimes it feels like muscle tension. Other times it can be severe pain. The cartilage inside the joint may be injured. Other times only connecting ligaments surrounding the joint are injured. Facet pain also depends on which facet joint is affected. Lumbar facet pain can occur in an area from your low back to your buttock region.

 How do I know if I have lumbar facet pain?

If you have pain in one or more of these areas, and at last longer than 2 months, you may have lumbar facet pain. Common tests such as x-rays or MRIs may not always show if a facet joint is causing pain.

What is a lumbar medial branch injection?

In a lumbar medial branch block , an anesthetic is injected near the medial branch nerve. This stops the transmission of pain signals from the medial branch nerve. Fluoroscopy, a type of X-ray, will be used to ensure the safe and proper position of the needle. Dye will also be injected to make sure that the needle is at the correct spot. When the doctor is sure the needle is at the correct place, the medicine will be injected.

 What happens after an injection?

You will be monitored for up to 30 minutes after the injection. When you are ready to leave the staff will give you the discharge instructions. You will also be given a pain diary. It is important to fill out this because it helps your doctor to know the injection is working. It will help you to move your back in ways that hurt before the injection, to see if the pain is still there but do not overdo it. Take it easy for the rest of the day. You may feel immediate pain relief and numbness in your neck for a period of time after the injection this may indicate the medication has reached the right spot. You can usually return to work the day after the injection, but always check with your doctor.

 How long can I expect pain relief?

The extent and duration of the pain relief may depend on the amount of inflammation and how many areas are involved. Other coexisting factors may be responsible for your pain. If your pain goes away for a short time, but then return, you may be a candidate for radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the medial branch nerve. This procedure a more sustained disruption of pain signals and often prolonged pain relief.

A lumbar medial branch block is an outpatient procedure for treating lower back pain and leg pain. This information has been provided by your doctor so you can better understand this procedure your doctor will make the best recommendations for your specific  needs. This article is for general education only. Specific questions or concerns should always be directed to your doctor. Your doctor can explain possible risks or side effects.

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