What are Facet Joints and SI Joints?
Facet joints and SI joints connect the vertebrae, the bones of the spine and the Sacrum. They help guide your spine and Sacrum when you move. The Neck area is called the cervical region, upper back area is called the thoracic region, low back area of the spine is called the lumbar region and the buttock area is called the sacral region. Facet joints are found on both sides of the spine. The facet joints and SI joints are named for the vertebrae or sacrum they connect and the side of the spine where they are found. All Facet Joints have Pain Nerves which can be blocked.
What is Facet or SIJ joint pain?
You may feel pain if a facet joint is injured. Sometimes it feels like muscle tension. Other times it can be severe pain. The cartilage inside the joint may be injured. Other times only connecting ligaments surrounding the joint are injured. Facet pain also depends on which joint is affected. Cervical facet joint pain can be felt as headaches, Neck Pain and into the shoulder blades, Lumbar facet joint pain and SIJ pain can occur in an area from your low back down to your buttocks, groin, hips and legs.
What is a RadioFrequency Ablation (RFA)?
RFA uses radiofrequency energy to disrupt nerve function. When this is performed on the small branches of nerves going to the facet or SI joints, the nerves can no longer transmit pain from that joint. The process of stopping the pain nerves from transmitting pain impulses gradually occurs over 6 – 8 weeks during which time the patients see a slow progressive improvement in their pain levels. Ideally the pain completely resolves, however this varies from patient to patient. The nerves very slowly grow back; however this process may take over a year or more to occur. This is why the literature has identified the duration of pain relief of over 12 months in certain patients. As the nerves grow back the procedure can be repeated if indicated.
What is the typical procedure?
If you are having it performed and desire IV sedation they will require you to not eat 8 hours prior to the procedure and only clear liquids up to 4 hours prior. Nothing to eat or drink for the last 4 hours prior. If you are not receiving sedation just don’t eat or drink 2 hours prior please. Your will be monitored closely with blood pressure, and a blood oxygen monitoring device. Local anesthetic and freezing spray will be used before the actual procedure to diminish any discomfort. The physician then locates, under fluoroscopy (X-ray), a specific anatomical target site or location that is near the problem area, specialized stimulation techniques are used to confirm proper placement of the radiofrequency probes. The Procedure may cause some slight discomfort, however is typically not painful.
What should I expect following the procedure?
Initially you may have some increase in discomfort due to the initial irritation from the procedure and ice can be helpful. Be patient, the pain relief comes on slowly. Certainly if you have any concerns prior to or following the procedure please call our office at 850-484-4080 or call the surgical center where the procedure was performed.