If you’re experiencing neck, back, or face pain, your doctor may recommend a facet block or nerve block injection to help relieve the discomfort. Pain-relief injections are a minimally invasive procedure to target specific areas of pain. But what’s the difference between facet and nerve block injections?

Facet joint injections are best for chronic pain in the neck or back. The facet joints are located between and behind the vertebrae. They act as stabilizers for the spine and allow the back to move. Facet joints can become painful when they’re inflamed or damaged. A facet block is an injection of numbing medication and a steroid into the facet joint. This numbs the nerve endings around the facet joint and can provide relief from pain for several months.

Read more: What to Expect After Getting Facet Joint Injections?

Nerve block injections are best for pain that radiates down the arms or legs. A nerve block is an injection of numbing medication and a steroid into or around a nerve.

Read more about the differences between facet blocks and nerve block injections.

What Are Facet Blocks and How Do Injections Help?

Facet joints are the small joints between and behind your spine vertebrae. Your joints allow your spine to move and act as shock absorbers for your back. Facet joints have a coating of cartilage that allows the bones to glide smoothly over each other. The facet joints are held by ligaments and surrounded by a small amount of synovial fluid.

This fluid acts as a lubricant, allowing the joints to move quickly. Facet joints can become painful when they are damaged or degenerate with age. Facet joint pain is also called facet syndrome, facet disease, or zygapophyseal joint pain.

Injections of local anesthetics and steroids into the facet joints are called facet blocks. Facet blocks are used to diagnose the source of pain coming from the facet joints. They can also be used to provide pain relief. Facet block injections are usually given as a series of three injections one week apart.

The doctor may recommend physical therapy to help improve the facet joints and spine function.

What Are Nerve Blocks and  Why Injections Will Help?

The medial branch nerve is the one that sends pain signals from the facet joints to the brain. A nerve block happens when a needle is inserted near the medial branch, and an anesthetic is injected. This temporarily numbs or “blocks” the pain signals from getting to the brain. Facet injections are done to help diagnose the source of pain as well as to provide relief. Facet blocks can be used for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

A therapeutic nerve block is done when the goal is pain relief. There are two types of facet injections – a diagnostic injection and a therapeutic injection.

A diagnostic injection is also called a selective nerve root block (SNRB). This injection uses minimal anesthetic to numb the area around the specific medial branch nerve that is thought to be causing the pain. If the pain goes away, the medial branch nerve is likely the source of pain. This type of injection is done when the goal is to provide longer-term pain relief.

The Pain and Spine Institute is the best for facet blocks in Chicago. We use Facet blocks for patients with arthritis or degenerative disc disease who have not responded to other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy, epidural injections, or medications.