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Cervical Spine Injections

Cervical spine injections play an important role in the assessment and treatment of pain in the head, neck, shoulder and arm. The key function of the cervical spine is to bear the weight of the head that averages about 10 pounds. There are 7 cervical vertebrae, numbered as C1 to C7. The greatest range of motion in the cervical region is because of two specialized vertebrae C1 and C2, connected to the skull. These vertebrae enable forward and sideward head movement.

Cervical facet joints are tiny joints located in pairs on the back/side of the neck. These joints impart stability and direct motion in the spine. If the joints turn out to be painful due to arthritis, injury, or mechanical trauma, they can initiate pain in numerous areas such as head, neck, shoulder or arm.
Facet joint injections carry out a number of functions including diagnostic and therapeutic. For diagnosis, facet joints can be injected in two ways- injecting anesthetic directly into the joint or freezing the nerves conveying the pain signals away from the joint (medial branches of the nerve). If most of the pain is relieved with anesthetic into the joint, subsequently a therapeutic injection of a steroid may impart lasting pain relief.

If anesthetic injections reveal that the nerve is the cause of pain, the next step is to obstruct the pain signals more permanently. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) also called rhizotomy or neurotomy is a novel non-surgical technique which employs radiofrequency waves to produce heat that damages the nerves transmitting pain signals to the brain.

For more details about the specific procedures involved, please view our patient education PDF files.


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