What is a lumbar facet joint block?

A lumbar facet joint block is an injection of local anesthetic (numbing medicine) into one or more of the small joints located along the side of each vertebrae on both sides of the spine in the lower part of the back. Multiple injections may be performed, depending upon how many joints are involved. Facet joint blocks are typically requested for patients who have pain primarily in their back as a result of arthritic changes in the facet joints or for patients who have mechanical low back pain. A facet joint block may be diagnostic (a test to see if your pain is coming from this area) and/or therapeutic (to relieve your pain).

Note: The procedure cannot be performed if you have an active infection, flu, cold, fever, very high blood pressure or if you are on blood thinners. Please make your doctor aware of any of these conditions. This is for your safety!

How do I prepare for the procedure?

No solid food or fluids after midnight prior to the procedure unless directed otherwise. You may take your medications with a small amount of water. Diabetics should not take their medication for diabetes until after the procedure is complete. Please check your blood sugar at home before arriving at the PMC. If you are taking any blood thinners such as Coumadin, Warfarin, Plavix, or any others, these medications must be discontinued well before the procedure. You will be directed by our staff as to when you should stop this medication. Please make your Pain Management doctor aware that you are taking a blood thinner, and contact your primary care physician or prescribing physician before stopping this medication.

What are the risks of the procedure?

As with most procedures, there is a remote risk of bleeding, infection, nerve injury, or allergic reaction to the medications used. Other short-term side effects may occur. If local anesthetic spreads to nearby nerves you may have weakness or numbness that can last for several hours. If this happens, you may have to stay in the Pain Management Center until it resolves. You may have increased pain for a few days after the injections, including localized pain at the injection site.