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Facet Injections for Low Back Pain

When Should This Injection Be Used?

Facet Injections: Used for Diagnosis

The therapeutic benefit of facet injections remains controversial. The controversy begins with the poor correlation of the history and examination with true facet mediated low back pain.

Many patients will complain of back and often lower extremity pain with standing, walking, and extension-type activities. The neurologic examination is normal, and provocative tests for nerve root inflammation are usually negative. Many patients will have increased pain on passive extension, and/or extension and rotation; less often patients will complain of pain with flexion.

In addition, radiographic and bone scan imaging has not been helpful in selecting appropriate patients for facet injections.

Therefore, the primary role of facet injections remains diagnostic. There is less support for the therapeutic effect of intra-articular corticosteroid injections or ablations of the nerves innervating the lumbar facet joints.

Facet injections should be used for patients who have failed a directed non-operative treatment program which incorporates various manipulation/mobilization techniques. They are not indicated in the first four to six weeks of treatment and, when utilized, should be done under fluoroscopic guidance using contrast medium to assure proper placement.

Goal of Facet Joint Injections

The goal of facet injections is to verify the diagnosis and perhaps assist with pain reduction in order to facilitate an active physical therapy program. If prior injections were helpful and there is a recurrence of pain, they can be repeated; however, repeat injections should be limited.

This procedure should be used only in those failing a comprehensive program and in no way should be considered in the initial management of an episode of acute low back pain.

Updated on: 02/01/13
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