Located in the mid-back area of the spine, the thoracic joints provide stability and generate movement for nearby vertebrae and intervertebral discs. For patients suffering from mid-back pain due to arthritis, injury, or degeneration in the thoracic spine, thoracic facet joint injections have successfully treated these conditions. This minimally invasive injection contains an anesthetic and steroid mixture that has successfully reduced pain and decreased swelling in the facet joints. Thoracic facet joint injections also serve two purposes: they are both diagnostic and therapeutic in nature. Physicians use this injection to confirm the source of their patient’s pain as well as to provide adequate pain relief that may last from several weeks to several months.
Patients who are anxious about the thoracic facet joint injection may receive an intravenous sedative prior to the procedure. The physician cleans and numbs the affected area in preparation for the injection. Next, a contrast dye will be injected by using a live x-ray for guidance; the doctor injects the contrast dye close to the damaged joint before administering the thoracic facet joint injection. The x-ray will provide a clear view of the injection site, and the anesthetic and corticosteroid medication will be slowly injected in and around the painful facet joint. Following the injection, the patient will be sent to a recovery before being discharged.
At the conclusion of the procedure, a physician from The Spine & Pain Center will give discharge instructions and explain what the patient should do if any complications arise. Adverse reactions from a thoracic facet joint injection are possible but they are rare. Patients and their caregivers should watch for symptoms such as fever, increased pain or infection. We recommend keeping a pain journal throughout the following week to document progress. Patients who do not experience measurable pain relief within two weeks after the procedure may need to receive alternative treatment modalities. Ice should be applied to the injection site for several minutes a few times a day to minimize pain and soreness.