Therapeutic Spine Injections
Therapeutic spine injections are a method of delivering anti-inflammatory medications or local anaesthetics to areas of the spine that are generating pain. Not only can they provide temporary relief, but they can also allow the body to heal and in many cases stop the pain from coming back. These injections can be made to any part of the spine, from the neck to the lumbar region, and can provide relief lasting anywhere from several weeks to several years. Here we’ll take a look at three of the most common types of therapeutic spine injections: nerve root blocks and facet joint blocks.
Nerve Root Blocks
The nerve roots branch out from the spinal cord on their way to various parts of the body where they send messages to and from the brain. They must negotiate the all the parts of the spine, from the spine column, between the vertebrae, facet joints, ligaments and muscles, and if any part of this delicate system breaks down, they can irritate or put pressure on the nerve roots. Not only can this cause pain at the site of the damage, but also where the nerve sends messages to. The most common damaged nerve root is the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. It is located in the lower back and controls the legs, and when it is damaged the result is called sciatica, causing pain in the lower back and down the leg.
A nerve root block is performed by guiding a needle under x-ray guidance to the damaged nerve, where a solution of local anaesthetic and anti-inflammatory steroid is injected. Most patients feel relieve within a few days of the procedure which may last anywhere from months to years.
Facet Joint Blocks
The facet joints are the small joints located between each of the vertebrae at the back of the spine. Not only do they help stabilise the spine, but they also help provide flexibility. These joints commonly are damaged as a result of simple wear and tear. As we age, the intervertebral discs, which work as cushions between the vertebrae, can loose their liquid, forcing them to become smaller and bringing the vertebrae closer together. This can put additional pressure on the facet joints, causing pain.
A facet joint block can be performed to stop the pain signals from being sent to the brain. Much like a nerve root block, a needle is guided under x-ray guidance to the area of the affected facet joint, where a solution of local anaesthetic and an anti-inflammatory steroid are injected. Most patients will feel relief within days and can then go through other therapies to help strengthen the back to prevent the pain from returning. While many patients will not need to have the procedure repeated, others may benefits from a repeat procedure several months after the first one.