The human body is fearfully and wonderfully made. Spinal facet joints—the hinge joints or motion segments of the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine—provide the means by which complex spinal movements can occur, such as turning, bending, or twisting. They aid mobility, balance, and range of motion. Disease, injury, or wear and tear can cause degeneration or deterioration of these joints. Pain and restricted movement often result. Facet joint disease is almost always associated with spinal stenosis for years before leg pain symptoms develop.
Facet joint injections or “blocks” may provide useful diagnostic information. In addition to providing short term pain relief, they may help the spinal specialist determine the site of spinal pain and whether or not the facet joints are involved. The block may be performed at the level of the facet joint itself, or at the level of the medial branch nerve supplying sensation to the joint.
Depending on the location, facet pain and pressure on neighboring nerves may cause referred pain symptoms in the form of headaches, shoulder and arm pain, chest and rib pain, along with leg or buttock pain. If pain recurs after a successful facet injection, additional procedures, such as facet denervation or facet rhizotomy, may be employed for long term relief of symptoms.