Information on chronic pain and addicton

Christopher Frandrup, M.D., DABPM, FIPP

Category: Lumbar

Sacroiliac Joint Injections

Sacroiliac Joint Injections

What Is A Sacroiliac Joint Injection?

The sacroiliac joint is a diarthrodial joint that is located lateral to the spine and connects the hip to the sacrum on both sides of the body. There is a sacroiliac joint located on the right and on the left and these joints bear the weight of a patient’s upper body and extremities. Due to the fact that the joint has to be very stable, movement of the joint is limited. A thin layer of cartilage covers the surface of the ileum and sacrum. Synovial fluid fills the space between these two structures, which is enclosed within a fibrous capsule. Sacroiliac joint inflammation and dysfunction can result in chronic low back or leg pain.Sacroiliac joint dysfunction can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms often mimic other causes of back pain including disc herniation, facet syndrome, and radiculopathy. Sacroiliac joint injections serve two purposes: to diagnose the source of a patients’ pain and to provide pain relief. Various studies have shown that extra-articular and peri-articular steroid injections within the sacroiliac joint are more effective than placebo treatments for pain relief. Additionally, the studies have found that these pain relief benefits are sustained at a one-month follow-up appointment.

How Is A Sacroiliac Joint Injection Performed?

A diagnostic sacroiliac joint injection is performed when sacroiliac joint dysfunction is suspected. The area around the sacroiliac joint is numbed with a local anesthetic and a needle is then inserted using fluoroscopic guidance. Contrast dye is injected once the needle is in place to ensure proper needle placement and proper spread of medication. A numbing medication is then injected into the joint.After the numbing medication is injected, patients are asked to try and reproduce their pain by performing certain movements. If the patient reports a significant reduction in their pain, a diagnosis of sacroiliac joint dysfunction is tentatively made. In order to confirm the diagnosis, a second injection should be performed at a later date.

A therapeutic sacroiliac joint injection is performed when a diagnosis of sacroiliac joint dysfunction has been established and the patient requires pain relief. This procedure is performed in the same manner as the diagnostic sacroiliac joint injection with the exception that a corticosteroid is also injected into the affected joint.

Many patients that are treated with a sacroiliac joint injection are expected to experience immediate pain relief. After the procedure is completed, patients are monitored for pain relief and adverse reactions.

If a patient experiences prolonged pain relief after receiving a therapeutic sacroiliac joint injection, they may start a physical therapy program to further reduce their pain and to help them achieve normal functioning. If a patient experiences significant pain relief following a sacroiliac joint injection, it may be repeated up to three times per year.

As with all medical procedures, there are risks associated with sacroiliac joint injections, including bleeding, infection, and allergic reactions to the medications. Additionally, a patient may experience temporary numbness or weakness in the legs that is caused by the anesthetic that is injected. Some patients may have a temporary increase in pain and injection site tenderness for a couple of days after the injection. Diabetics may notice an increase in their blood sugar levels that is the result of the corticosteroid that is injected.

Conditions Related To Sacroiliac Joint Injections

Sacroiliac joint injections are often used for treating patients that suffer from chronic, non-specific back pain that is the result of irritation, inflammation, or injury of the sacroiliac joint. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is tough to diagnose as the symptoms overlap with other injuries. Research has shown that up to 40-50% of patients with a confirmed diagnosis of sacroiliac joint pain are able to identify an event that likely contributed to their current episode of sacroiliac pain. These events may include a slip and fall, a motor vehicle accident, or repetitive stress on the joint.It should be noted that acute events are not responsible for all episodes of sacroiliac joint pain. Research has found that there are a number of traits that are associated with an increased risk of developing sacroiliac joint pain, including leg length discrepancy, gait and biomedical abnormalities, transitional anatomy, scoliosis, persistent strain, and pregnancy.

Patients who suffer from sacroiliac pain often describe the pain as diffuse, lower back pain. Of concern when evaluating a patient with sacroiliac joint pain is their current level of impairment (strength, flexibility, balance, etc.). The level of impairment will help the patients’ physician determine whether the patient will be able to engage in a rehabilitation program without experiencing significant pain. Additionally, depending on the current level of impairment, the physician may recommend a trial of conservative treatment options before initiating this type of treatment.


Sacroiliac joint injections are an effective procedure for patients suffering from chronic lumbar back pain that is the result of inflammation or dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint. Sacroiliac joint injections are minimally invasive and can provide pain relief almost immediately for many patients. It is hypothesized that these injections provide pain relief as the result of their anti-inflammatory characteristics; however, the literature remains unclear. Patients suffering from chronic low back pain that originates from the sacroiliac joint should discuss the option of sacroiliac joint injections with their physician to determine if it is an appropriate option for their case.


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  2. Cohen SP, Chen Y, Neufeld NJ. Sacroiliac joint pain: A comprehensive review of epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment. Expert Rev Neurother. 2013;13(1):99-116.
  3. Hansen H, Manchikanti L, Simopoulos TT, Christo PJ, Gupta S, Smith HS, Hameed H, Cohen SP. Pain Physician.2012;15(3):E247-78.
  4. Jee H, Lee JH, Park KD, Ahn J, Park Y. Ultrasound-guided versus fluoroscopy-guided sacroiliac joint intra-articular injections in the non-inflammatory sacroiliac joint dysfunction: A prospective, randomized, and single blinded study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013;9:[Epub ahead of print].
  5. Manchikanti L, Hansen H, Pampati V, Falco FJ. Utilization and growth patterns of sacroiliac joint injections from 2000 to 2011 in the medicare population. Pain Physician. 2013;16(4):E379-90.
  6. Simopoulos TT, Manchikanti L, Singh V, Gupta S, Hameed H, Diwan S, Cohen SP. A systematic evaluation of prevalence and diagnostic accuracy of sacroiliac joint interventions. Pain Physician. 2012;15(3):E305-44.
  7. Spiker WR, Lawrence BD, Raich AL, Skelly AC, Brodke DS. Surgical versus injection treatment for injection-confirmed chronic sacroiliac joint pain. Evid Based Spine Care J. 2012;3(4):41-53.

Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection

Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection

What Is A Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection?

Epidural injections for pain relief emerged in 1901. The first epidural injection performed used cocaine to relieve pain that was suspected to emerge from the lumbar nerve roots. Between the 1920s and 1940s, epidural injections contained mostly saline and a local anesthetic agent. The use of corticosteroids in epidural steroid injections began in 1952. The corticosteroid used during this procedure is a synthetic, man-made drug whose function is similar to that of cortisol.Currently, epidural steroid injections are widely used both in diagnosing and treating neuropathic pain. Lumbar epidural steroid injections, in particular, are performed in the lumbar region of the lower back in order to treat pain that occurs within the lower back and legs. More specifically, corticosteroids are injected into the epidural space surrounding the spinal nerves of the lumbar region. This medication functions to reduce pain and inflammation within the area. The procedure itself is minimally invasive and does not require surgery.

The short-term efficacy of lumbar epidural steroid injections has been well documented. Moreover, this procedure has been accepted as an effective treatment option for both radicular and back pain by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the North American Spine Society. The long-term effectiveness of this procedure is not as clear, however, and more studies are warranted.

The lumbar epidural steroid injection provides some benefits over steroids that are administered orally or other orally dispensed analgesics, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as the medication is delivered directly to the affected area. Additionally, successfully completed lumbar epidural steroid injections may also reduce concomitant symptoms of numbness or tingling sensations.

Though quite rare, there is some risk for potential complications associated with the lumbar epidural steroid injection procedure. As with other epidural injections, there is a risk for minor bleeding at the site of the injection, infection, spinal headache, and temporary leg weakness.

In addition, there is a specific risk for additional complications with regard to the lumbar procedure. The more commonly occurring of these include:

  • Backache or a postural puncture headache (occurs in between 0.5 and 1% of patients receiving lumbar injections)
  • Dizziness, neurocardiogenic syncope, nausea, or even vomiting
  • Bleeding at the trajectory of the injection
  • Injury to the nerve root

How Is A Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injection Performed?

During the lumbar epidural steroid injection procedure, the patient is placed in the prone position on the X-ray table (i.e., lying face down flat on the table). Some physicians or pain specialists will have the patient place a small pillow under their stomach, which places a slight curve in the lower back. The surface of the skin in the area of the injection is thoroughly cleansed and sterilized. For most procedures, only a topical local anesthetic is required; however, a small portion of patients may feel too uncomfortable and request that they be sedated for the procedure.The physician will begin by inserting a fluoroscope device into the back, which transmits a video image of the internal structures on to a computer screen. This device is then used as a guide for the physician to ensure proper placement of the injection needle into the affected area. Contrast dye can also be injected in order to confirm placement, as well as to assess the degree of medication distribution.

When the physician has assured correct placement of the injection needle, the steroid solution is injected. In some instances, the patient will report sensations of pressure that are not painful, owing to the build-up of fluid. Once the procedure has been completed, the patient is held for observation for approximately 15 to 20 minutes and is then discharged home.

In terms of needle placement, there are three different methods for performing a lumbar epidural steroid injection, which include:

  • Interlaminar: Needle is placed between the lamina and vertebrae of the middle back and the corticosteroid solution is delivered on either side of the spine
  • Transforaminal: Needle is placed into the neural foramen on the side of the vertebrae and the corticosteroid solution is delivered only to one side of the spine
  • Caudal: Needle is placed in the area of the large sacral canal at the tailbone

Conditions Related To Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections

The lumbar epidural steroid injection can be effective in managing many forms of acute and chronic pain that occur within the lower back or limbs. In particular, this procedure is most effective in conditions that arise as the result of damage or irritation and inflammation of the nerves within the lumbar region.Some common pain conditions that are treated using lumbar epidural steroid injections include:

  • Synovial cysts: This condition occurs as the result of cysts that form within the facet joint or in the area of the nerve root. These cysts may cause compression of the structures of the spine, which can lead to nerve pain.
  • Lumbar radiculopathy: This is a specific type of pain that emerges as the result of compression or inflammation of the spinal nerves. This pain is unique in that it radiates from the lower back region, down through the back of the leg, into the calf or foot.
  • Degenerative disc disease: This condition occurs when nerve bundles of the spine are impinged as the result of an irritated or damaged and inflamed intervertebral disc. This compression of the nerve tissue causes it to become irritated and transmit exaggerated signals of pain back to the spinal cord and brain.
  • Herniated disc: Similar to intervertebral disc degeneration, herniated discs occur when the intervertebral disc bulges or even ruptures and thereby places compression on the nearby spinal nerves, causing them to send exaggerated signals of pain to the spinal cord and brain.
  • Spinal stenosis: This condition occurs as the result of a narrowing of the spinal canal, which places pressure on the nerves inside the passageway.
  • Spondylosis: This condition occurs as the result of a defect in the link between the vertebrae that make up the spinal column. Over time, this defect can lead to degeneration of the structures that make up the spine and even stress fractures.


Epidural steroid injections have been used to effectively treat neuropathic pain since 1952. Lumbar epidural injections, in particular, can provide patients suffering from chronic or acute lower back and leg pain with some relief from their symptoms. The procedure is minimally invasive and does not require surgery. Previous studies have supported the short-term effectiveness of these injections; however, more work is necessary to examine the long-term benefits of the procedure.


  1. Coliman F, Villalobos F. Epidural steroid injections: Evidence and technical aspects. Techniques in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Management. 2010;14;113-119.
  2. Collighan N, Gupta E. Epidural steroids. Brit J Anaesth. 2010;109(1):1-5.
  3. Friedrich J, Hlumbar epidural arrast M. Lumbar epidural steroid injections: indications, contraindications, risks, and benefits. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2010;9(1):43-49.
  4. Ghai B, Vadajae KS, Wig J, Dhillon MS. Lateral parasagittal veres midline interlaminar lumbar epidural steroid injection for management of low back pain with lumbosacral radicular pain: A double-blind randomized study.Anesth Analg. 2013;117(10):219-227.
  5. Manchikanti L, Cash K, McManus C, Damron K, Pampati V, falco F. Lumbar interlaminar epidural injections in central spinal stenosis: Preliminary results of a randomized, double-blind active control trial. Pain Physician. 2012;15:51-63.
  6. Sukdeb D, Ramsin M, Laxmaiah M. Evidence-based practice of lumbar epidural injections. Techniques in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Management. 2009;13:281-287.


What Is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a common condition that affects various components of the body including the cartilage, joints, bones, muscles, and connective tissues. Arthritis impairs an individual’s normal movement and functioning. There are over 100 different forms of arthritis that affect people of many different ages. The three most common types of arthritis are: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile arthritis.Osteoarthritis affects approximately 27 million people in the United States, making it the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that results when the cartilage surrounding the joints begins to wear down. The degeneration of the cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other, leading to joint pain, stiffness, and other issues within the affected joint. The cause of osteoarthritis is not fully understood; however certain risk factors that are associated with an increased risk of developing osteoarthritis have been identified, including increasing age, obesity, previous joint injuries, overuse of a joint, weak musculature, and certain genetic factors. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body however it most commonly affects the joints in the hands, knees, hips, and spine.

The symptoms associated with osteoarthritis tend to develop gradually and usually include joint pain and stiffness that occurs after rest and improves with physical activity. Osteoarthritis is sometimes referred to as a progressive, degenerative joint disease as it is a disease that worsens over time. In the early stages of osteoarthritis, the pain may be moderate and intermittent, and may not have a negative impact on an individuals’ daily functioning. While some patients may not progress past the early stage of the disease, other patients progress to later and more debilitating stages of the disease. In the later stages of the disease the joint pain and stiffness worsens. For individuals with severe cases of osteoarthritis, normal activities such as walking, climbing stairs, and even sleeping can become difficult. At the present time there is no cure for osteoarthritis but maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and other treatment options may help to reduce pain, improve joint functioning, and slow the progression of the disease.

Rheumatoid arthritis is another common type of arthritis, affecting approximately 1.5 million people in the United States. Women are three times more likely than men to develop this disease. Women are usually affected by rheumatoid arthritis between the ages of 30 and 60, while men are usually affected later in life. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that is the result of inflammation of the membranes that make up the joint tissue lining. Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and the joints are often warm to the touch. Rheumatoid arthritis can often lead to severe joint damage. Rheumatoid arthritis is commonly seen bilaterally, meaning that if a joint on one side of the body is affected by inflammation, the same joint on the other side of the body is usually affected as well. The severity of the symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis varies and can also change from day to day. However, if symptoms suddenly increase it is called a flare. When a flare occurs, it can last for several days to months.

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease. Under normal circumstances the body’s immune system acts to protect the body by attacking and destroying foreign substances, including bacteria and viruses. However, in patients who suffer with rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks joint tissue. This abnormal immune system reaction results in inflammation that cannot only result in joint damage, but in organ damage as well. Early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is essential in order to prevent severe joint damage and organ damage.

Juvenile arthritis is a term that is used to describe various inflammatory and autoimmune diseases that can develop in children below the age of 16. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is the most common type of juvenile arthritis. In order to be diagnosed with this condition, the child must be experiencing the initial stages of swelling in at least one joint, for at least six weeks. At the present time there is no known cause of juvenile arthritis. Furthermore, there is no evidence to support the idea that certain foods, toxins, or allergies can cause children to develop juvenile arthritis. However, there is some evidence to suggest that there may be a genetic predisposition to developing this disease. An accurate diagnosis of juvenile arthritis is essential for proper treatment.

Epidemiology And Impact Of Arthritis

Approximately 50 million individuals in the United States are affected by arthritis, making it a serious health concern in the country. While many people think that arthritis only affects the elderly, it can affect individuals of any age. It has been reported that two-thirds of individuals who suffer with arthritis are under the age of 65. Moreover, approximately 300,000 children are afflicted by this painful condition. It has been estimated that the prevalence of arthritis will continue to rise over the next two decades. By 2030 it is estimated that approximately 67 million individuals in the United States will develop arthritis.Of the individuals affected by arthritis, approximately 36 million are Caucasian American, 4.6 million are African American, and 2.9 million are Latin American or Hispanic. Arthritis is also the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and results in more mobility issues than heart disease, cancer, or diabetes.

Arthritis has begun to place a burden on the economic and healthcare systems in the U.S. Arthritis is responsible for approximately 44 million physician appointments and over 900,000 hospitalizations each year. Reports investigated patients between 2003 and 2010 and found that certain surgical procedures that are used for the treatment of arthritis are associated with longer hospital stays, especially when they are performed on patients with later stages of the disease. These results may be due to the fact that patients in the later stages of the disease waited too long to seek out treatment, or that they suffered from certain types of arthritis. When arthritis is diagnosed and treated in the early stages of the disease, if surgery is required, it may be done as a day surgery procedure or require a one-day stay as opposed to requiring a hospital stay of a longer duration. Longer hospitalization times result in an increased need for healthcare personnel and equipment, and therefore higher medical costs.

In particular, for patients aged 18 to 64 who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis reports have shown that between 2002 and 2011 there has been a considerable increase in costs for these patients. An increase in prescription medications combined with a decrease in hospitalizations, as well as an increase in other costs such as sick leave and disability may be responsible for the increased costs. Additionally, since 2009 there has been an increase in the cost of medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which may also contribute to the rising costs associated with this particular subset of arthritis patients.

Causes Of Arthritis

There are a variety of factors that can influence an individuals’ susceptibility for developing arthritis. In order to understand how arthritis often develops, understanding the way a joint works is beneficial. Joints are areas where bones intercept and the ligaments within the joints hold the bones together. Ligaments are comprised of tissue that contracts and expands, similar to elastic. Ligaments help to keep bones in place. Conversely, surrounding muscles contract and relax to allow for movement of the joint. Cartilage is another type of tissue that covers the surface of bones and helps to prevent bones from rubbing against each other and becoming damaged. Synovial fluid fills that space within the joint and helps to encourage mobility by nourishing the cartilage and the joint.The various components of the joint are all susceptible to damage from wear and tear from everyday use as well as from injury or acute traumatic events. When an individual is diagnosed with arthritis it may be indicative of a problem with the cartilage, synovial fluid, or immune system. The type of arthritis that an individual is diagnosed with provides an idea as to whether cartilage has worn away, synovial fluid has deceased, an abnormal immune response has occurred, that an infection is present, or that a combination of these activities has occurred.

Osteoarthritis is a chronic disease that involves damage to the cartilage located within the joint. The cartilage damage may be the result of wear and tear over time or may be the result of an injury. When the cartilage is damaged, it is unable to provide cushioning for the joint. If there is enough damage to the cartilage, there is a significant risk of bone rubbing against bone. This can lead to significant pain, especially with physical activity, in addition to a loss of joint flexibility.

On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by an abnormal immune response within the body to the joints. In particular, the immune system begins to attack the synovial membrane that lines that joint capsule and encloses the structures of the joint. As a result of this abnormal immune response, the synovial membrane becomes inflamed and swollen. If rheumatoid arthritis is left untreated it can progress from mild joint damage to serious organ damage.

While wear and tear, injury, trauma, and abnormal immune responses can lead to arthritis, research has shown that arthritis is often caused by a combination of various factors. The factors that have been associated with an increased risk of developing arthritis, include:

  • Weak muscles
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Overuse of a joint
  • Certain autoimmune conditions
  • Increasing age
  • Female sex
  • Certain allergic reactions or infections
  • Obesity
  • Previous joint injury
  • Physically demanding occupation
  • Repetitive heavy lifting
  • Certain foods

Symptoms Of Arthritis

Typically, patients suffering from arthritis will report joint pain and stiffness. These symptoms tend to get worse with age or as the disease progresses. Other relatively common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain or stiffness during or after physical activity
  • Joint pain or stiffness after prolonged rest
  • Joint tenderness
  • Morning joint stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Grinding sound or sensation within the joint
  • Redness around the joint
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Warmth of the joint
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness

Symptoms that are common in patients who suffer from osteoarthritis include:

  • Joint pain or stiffness (especially in the lumbar spine, hips, and knees)
  • Joint pain or stiffness that increases with rest or overuse
  • Joint pain or stiffness after rest that begins to resolve with movement
  • Joint pain or stiffness that worsens during or after physical activity or at the end of the day

Symptoms that are common in patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Chronic joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Warmth of the joint
  • Swollen and red joints
  • Prolonged morning joint stiffness
  • Inflammation of the joints of the hand and wrist

Symptoms that are common in patients who suffer from juvenile arthritis include:

  • Chronic joint pain
  • Morning joint stiffness
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint tenderness
  • Irritability
  • Eye pain, eye redness, or blurred vision
  • Rash
  • Fever (persistent)
  • Limping

In patients who are very young, it may seem that the child cannot perform motor skills and activities that they were previously able to perform.

Symptoms of arthritis can vary drastically among patients. Symptoms may be temporary for some patients while others will develop chronic arthritis symptoms. The severity of arthritis pain can range from relatively mild to debilitating, and may be intermittent or constant. At times patients with arthritis will report that they have some days that are better than others when it comes to their arthritis symptoms.

Diagnosis Of Arthritis


There are a number of types of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, that are usually diagnosed following a medical assessment by a physician. The assessment typically includes a detailed history of symptoms as well as a physical examination. Diagnostic imaging tests, such as X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be utilized to visualize the affected joint. If certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile arthritis, are suspected, lab testing of urine, blood, or synovial fluid may also be performed to help confirm the diagnosis. Furthermore, lab testing of these body fluids helps to rule out other conditions that may be contributing to a patient’s symptoms.

In regard to rheumatoid arthritis, blood tests that reveal specific markers are necessary to properly diagnosis this condition. The specific markers that are revealed by these tests include various antibodies that are present in about 70 to 90% of individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. These specific markers sometimes circulate in the blood of individuals who do not suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, however the specific markers are usually present in higher levels in individuals suffering from this painful condition. The results of the lab testing can be used in conjunction with the medical history, physical examination, and any imaging performed to make an accurate diagnosis.

In regards to juvenile arthritis, there is no single lab test that can exclusively confirm this disease. In many patients the lab testing that is used reveals the presence of inflammation or possibly an infection; however, these results do not generally provide a physician with information to help make a clear diagnosis. Therefore in order to make a proper diagnosis of juvenile arthritis a detailed medical history combined with a thorough physical examination that includes special imaging tests is essential.

Early diagnosis of arthritis is essential in order to receive treatment that may help to reverse or prevent disease progression. If arthritis is left untreated it can lead to permanent damage to the joints, ligaments, cartilage, and bones. This damage can result in deformity and decreased mobility that may be irreversible. Moreover, arthritis can damage other structures within the body, including vital organs. Early diagnosis of arthritis can also help to prevent the need for invasive types of treatment, including surgery.

Treatments For Arthritis

At the present time, no cure has been developed for arthritis so treatment focuses on providing pain relief and improving joint functioning. Treatment for arthritis initially includes pain medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), protective devices (e.g. braces), cold and hot packs, and exercise. Many patients suffering from arthritis pain believe that they should avoid exercise. However, there is a significant amount of research that suggests that certain forms of endurance training and resistance exercises are actually beneficial for individuals suffering from the early stages of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.There is also a body of evidence that has found that weight management, exercise, and avoiding injuries to joints helps to reduce the occurrence of osteoarthritis and may also help to avoid flare-ups of arthritis symptoms. It has been found that weight loss in individuals who are overweight is especially effective. For every pound of weight loss, there is four pounds of pressure being taken off the knees. This can help to prevent or reduce inflammation and joint injury.

If there is no response to initial treatment methods, physical therapy may be recommended. Research has shown that physical therapy; in addition to regular physical activity is beneficial for arthritis sufferers. It has been found that individuals who suffer from arthritis often exercise less than the recommended amount to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Physical therapists often use techniques that alter normal behaviors to address both the biological and psychosocial aspects of an individual’s life. Patients are educated by their physical therapist on arthritis and the benefit of engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity. Current statistics show that individuals who are in the later stages of arthritis, on disability, or that have strong familial and social support are more likely to receive the services of a physical therapist.

Often a combination of treatments provides arthritis symptom relief. However, for some individuals their arthritis symptoms fail to respond to treatment or serious damage has occurred and surgery is necessary.

Proper Diet

In addition to a healthy lifestyle consisting of exercise and physical therapy, there is some evidence to suggest that a healthy, nutritious diet can help to minimize the complications that are associated with arthritis. In particular, certain foods including those that contain trans and saturated fats tend to increase inflammation in the body and should therefore be avoided.

It is suggested that the following foods should be limited in the diet or completely avoided:

  • Fatty pork or beef
  • Chicken skin
  • Dairy foods (full fat)
  • High sugar foods
  • Baked goods (made with white flour)
  • White rice
  • White bread
  • Foods that contain palm oil or palm-kernel oil

It is recommended that these foods be replaced by healthier food options, including:

  • Lean cuts of pork and beef
  • Skinless turkey and chicken
  • Fat-free or reduced-fat dairy products

Certain types of fish and nuts contain omenga-3 fatty acids, which have been demonstrated to reduce arthritis symptoms, particularly rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Furthermore, extra virgin olive oil contains high levels of a naturally occurring compound, oleocanthal, which helps to prevent and reduce inflammation associated with arthritis. Oleocanthal has also been shown to block the inflammatory pathways in the same manner that anti-inflammatory medications, including aspirin and ibuprofen do. Moreover, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and carotenes are antioxidants that can help to protect the body from the negative effects of inflammatory compounds. Foods containing these antioxidants have the ability to help in the prevention of arthritis, slow the disease progression, and help to reduce pain.

It is recommended that the following healthy food options be added into the diet of individuals suffering with arthritis:

  • Fish (e.g. herring, salmon, sardines, mackerel, rainbow trout, and anchovies)
  • Flax seeds (ground)
  • Chia seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Walnuts
  • Vegetables and fruits with high levels of vitamin C (e.g. oranges, grapefruits, guava, strawberries, lemons, pineapples, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, butternut squash, spinach, and sweet red peppers)

Guided Imagery

Alternative treatment options that are available for individuals suffering with arthritis include relaxation and guided imagery. Visualization, also referred to as mental imagery, is the act of an individual imagining themselves engaging in a certain action. It is also referred to as guided imagery as a professional trained in this technique often helps to guide an individual through the imagined activity.

Studies have shown that by mentally rehearsing an activity prior to actually executing the needed motor skills to complete the activity has the ability to improve future activity performance. The strength of visualization is dramatic, as research has shown that imagining an activity prior to engaging in it has a more significant effect on overall performance than by engaging in motor and strength exercises, when there is no history of guided imagery. Recent research also alludes to the fact that visualization is an effective technique that shows that the mind has the ability to transform mental imagery into improved physical activity performance.

Treatment With Medication

Over-the-counter medication may be recommended for patients suffering from mild to moderate pain due to their arthritis. However, prescription medication may be required for patients suffering with severe or chronic arthritis symptoms. Currently there are over 100 different types of medications available for the treatment of various forms of arthritis. The first-line treatment, from a pharmacological approach, are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Physicians usually recommend NSAIDs due to their ability to reduce joint inflammation, thereby helping to reduce pain. NSAIDs that can be taken orally are a very common prescription for the treatment of inflammation related to arthritis. Analgesic medication may also be recommended to treat pain that is related to arthritis; however, this type of medication does not offer the same anti-inflammatory effects that NSAIDs do.

When inflammation occurs, harmful fluids that contain enzymes that cause pain typically build up. NSAIDs help to reduce the buildup of these pain-inducing enzymes. These medications also help to block the release of pain-inducing enzymes, which enhance inflammatory reactions.

Many patients consider more invasive types of treatment for their arthritis symptoms. There is some evidence that suggests that corticosteroid injections can help reduce the degree of inflammation, in addition to providing pain relief for arthritis sufferers. Corticosteroids, including cortisone and prednisone, may be recommended in an effort to reduce inflammation, and in some cases to suppress an individual’s immune system. This is particularly true in cases where the immune system has begun to attack the joints of the body, as is seen in individuals affected by rheumatoid arthritis. There are a variety of corticosteroid injections and treatment plan regimens that are available that usually involve multiple injections for optimal pain relief.

Joint injections are a common procedure that is often recommended for patients suffering with arthritis. This procedure involves injecting medication directly into a joint, which helps to relieve inflammation and pain. Joint injections usually involve injecting an anesthetic combined with a corticosteroid into the affected area. The anesthetic helps to reduce pain while the corticosteroid helps to reduce inflammation. This procedure is relatively quick and simple to perform and some patients have reported immediate relief of pain symptoms. Joint injections can be repeated multiple times in order to enhance symptom relief. Various studies have shown that patients who receive joint injections report significant pain relief, increased range of motion, and improved quality of life.

Medial branch blocks are another type of treatment that can be offered to patients suffering with arthritis pain. A medial branch block involves injecting medication into the facet joints, which are structures that connect the vertebrae within the spinal column. Within the facet joint are networks of medial branch nerves that are responsible for the transmission of pain signals to the brain when nerve tissue is damaged or inflamed. When an individual begins to experience chronic arthritic pain, a medial branch block is usually recommended to help destroy the medial branch nerves, thereby blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. This results in a reduction, or elimination of pain. The use of medial branch blocks to relieve pain associated with arthritis has been well documented as an effective treatment option. The use of medial branch blocks has been shown to provide significant pain relief and improved mobility.

Joint injections and medial branch blocks may be used in cases where the physician suspects that surgery may be necessary. These treatment options may be used to provide some pain relief to these patients but can also provide physicians with information regarding how the body and nerves may react to certain surgical procedures. Diagnostic injections usually involve nerve blocks where a needle is inserted into the spinal column at specific areas where the affected spinal nerves are located. Fluoroscopy, or X-ray guidance, is used to ensure proper needle placement. Once proper placement is confirmed, a catheter is inserted through the needle to deliver pain medication directly to the spinal nerves that are believed to be responsible for the arthritic pain. An anesthetic and corticosteroid, or a substance that disintegrates nerve tissue, is injected to provide pain relief. This procedure leads to prolonged pain relief by blocking pain signal transmission.

Diagnostic nerve blocks provide the physician with an idea of whether a particular surgery will be effective for reducing arthritic pain for periods longer than the nerve block itself. A diagnostic nerve block is usually performed a minimum of two times. If the patient experiences greater pain relief with repeated injections, there is an increased probability that they will experience positive surgical outcomes. Prior to recommending surgery for arthritic pain, physicians usually like to observe the results of at least two diagnostic nerve blocks.

Osteoarthritis Treatment

Medication can be taken as needed for patients who are suffering from pain that is associated with the early stages of osteoarthritis. If the disease begins to progress, the physician may recommend occupational therapy or physical therapy to help maintain muscle strength and joint functioning. When the pain becomes severe, mobility becomes limited, or the patient becomes unable to perform daily activities, physicians may recommend more aggressive treatment options, including surgery.Patients suffering with osteoarthritis are advised to engage in regular physical activity and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If patients follow these recommendations in the early stages of the disease, it may help to prevent the disease from progressing. Patients who limit their physical activity due to pain may end up with weak joints and increased joint stiffness which can add to the pain that they are experiencing. Engaging in regular physical activity helps to strengthen muscles, which helps to protect the joints. Additionally, avoiding excessive weight gain is also important for patients who suffer with osteoarthritis as extra weight places added pressure and stress on the joints of the body. Other aspects of osteoarthritis management include eating a healthy diet, maintaining a good sleep schedule, and maintaining good mental health.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

rheumatoid arthritis

The goals of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis are to reduce pain and inflammation, and slow disease progression. Over-the-counter pain medications and prescriptions medication are often quite effective for reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Medication that specifically works to suppress abnormal immune system responses are also effective for the management of rheumatoid arthritis and may help to lead to a state of remission. This means that the inflammation associated with this disease completely ceases or is extremely low. Even if a patient experiences a state of remission they will still be monitored for inflammatory markers with regular lab testing as well as a physical examinations. Monitoring these patients at regular intervals will help to determine how well the treatment is working for their condition. Additionally, if the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis begin to re-occur, the physician may adjust the medication dosage or prescribe a new type of medication.

Patients suffering with rheumatoid arthritis are also advised to remain physically active as this will help to keep their joints flexible. Additionally, it is advisable that these patients also receive physical therapy in order to learn appropriate types of exercises that they should perform in addition to learning proper techniques of the exercises to avoid potential injuries. In addition to exercise and physical therapy, patients with rheumatoid arthritis are encouraged to consume a nutritious diet and maintain a healthy weight. Patients that follow these recommendations may notice a dramatic improvement in their pain levels.

Juvenile Arthritis Treatment

The goal of treatment for juvenile arthritis is to reduce inflammation and pain in an effort to improve a child’s quality of life. A combination of a healthy diet, physical activity, medication, and eye care is usually recommended. The treatment plan for a child with juvenile arthritis is developed specifically for their case and often involves multiple healthcare practitioners. The healthcare team may include an ophthalmologist, dentist, pediatric rheumatologist, nurse practitioner, and physical therapist. The healthcare team will evaluate and monitor a child’s condition and adjust the treatment plan as needed. This is vital as each child responds differently to arthritis treatment.Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and analgesic medications as well as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are the two types of medications that are commonly used to treat juvenile arthritis. NSAIDs and analgesic medication are used due to the fact that these medications help to relieve pain and inflammation. Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs are used because they may cause the disease to go into a remission state, thereby helping to prevent joint damage. In rare cases medication doses or different types of medications may be prescribed until the child begins to respond positively to treatment. Certain medications that are prescribed to children affected by juvenile arthritis affect the immune system and/or cause undesirable side effects; therefore these children are monitored closely for adverse reactions.


Arthritis is a term that is used to describe over 100 conditions and diseases that affect individuals of all ages. The three most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and juvenile arthritis. Common symptoms of all of these conditions include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and weakness. Osteoarthritis is caused by degeneration that may be the result of normal wear and tear of the joint or by an acute traumatic event. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an abnormal immune response, whereby the body begins to attack the joints of the body. The cause of juvenile arthritis is unknown, although most children who develop this disease are genetically predisposed to this condition.There is currently no cure for arthritis, but a variety of treatment options exist to help manage the pain and inflammation associated with this condition. Typically, conservative treatment methods including medication, exercise, physical therapy, and hot and cold compresses are recommended. Patients with more severe or chronic symptoms may be advised to undergo more invasive treatment options including corticosteroid injections, medial branch blocks, and possibly surgery.

Most cases of early stage arthritis can be successfully managed with conservative treatment options. Early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis is essential for optimal treatment outcomes. Receiving early treatment is particularly important for patients with rheumatoid arthritis as it can help to prevent deformities, disability, and organ damage. Symptoms of chronic pain and inflammation should not be ignored; patients are encouraged to speak with their physicians if they begin to experience any joint pain or stiffness as they may be suffering from the early stages of this painful condition.


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Lumbar Facet Block – Medial Branch Rhizotomy

Posterior Facet Block

What Are Posterior Facet Blocks And Medial Branch Rhizotomies?

Posterior facet blocks and facet rhizotomies are treatments used to bring relief to patients suffering from chronic back pain. The facet joints are the flexible spaces between the vertebrae that allow the spine to bend and flex. When problems arise in and around these joints, back pain may occur. When this pain becomes chronic and does not respond well to over-the-counter treatments such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), a physician may suggest a posterior facet block or rhizotomy.These are both nonsurgical options that are explored when temporary injections and anti-inflammatory medications do not provide sufficient relief. Posterior facet blocks cause a numbing of the nerves in the facet joints of the spine, while a rhizotomy involves the destruction of the nerve responsible for the chronic back pain. These are typically done as outpatient procedures that take about 20 to 30 minutes to perform.

In some cases, the posterior facet block may be used to help diagnose the specific nerve responsible for the pain so that the physician is certain that the correct nerve is being targeted for a rhizotomy. The targeted nerves are used primarily for sensing and are not necessary for a patient to maintain full mobility. Because of the diagnostic and therapeutic uses for these procedures, they can be used as complementary treatments in some cases.

How Are Posterior Facet Blocks Performed?

The posterior facet joints are the joints where the vertebrae touch each other on the posterior (back facing) side of the spine. When the joint becomes injured or inflamed, swelling and irritation of the associated nerves may occur. If this pain becomes chronic, a posterior facet block may be performed to help identify the specific joint or to provide temporary relief.Posterior facet blocks are performed as short outpatient procedures. After the source of the pain has been identified during a consultation with the physician, the injection site is sterilized and a local anesthetic is applied. The needle is guided using either sonogram or with a fluorescent dye visualized by X-ray. An anti-inflammatory steroid is then injected into the inflamed tissue.

The entire procedure typically takes less than 30 minutes to perform. Following the procedure, the patient is monitored for an additional 30 to 45 minutes to ensure that there are no adverse effects. Possible side effects include redness, bleeding, soreness, or numbness localized to the injection site.

How Are Rhizotomies Performed?

After performing a facet block injection, pain relief may last up to several weeks. If the chronic pain returns, a rhizotomy may be necessary. In some cases, the facet block injection will have been performed to better identify the nerves to target for a rhizotomy. In a rhizotomy, the specific nerves transmitting the pain signals are destroyed.The preparation for a rhizotomy is similar to the preparation for a posterior facet joint injection. The patient arrives at the physician’s office for an outpatient procedure. The skin around the targeted nerve is sterilized and a local anesthetic is applied. Sonographic or X-ray imaging with a fluorescent dye is also used. However, instead of a needle, a rhizotomy uses a small electrode. The electrode is inserted into the tissue alongside the target nerve. When the electrode is activated, it emits radiofrequencies that cause the surrounding tissue to heat, effectively destroying the nerve that it has been placed adjacent to.

The entire procedure takes approximately 30 minutes to complete, which is followed by a brief period of observation to ensure that the patient has no serious side effects. Possible side effects of this procedure include redness, bleeding, infection, and secondary nerve damage. Although the targeted nerve is destroyed, this procedure is not permanent. It is possible for the nerve to grow back and your physician may recommend another rhizotomy after approximately one year has passed.

Conditions Related To Posterior Facet Blocks And Rhizotomies

Posterior facet blocks and rhizotomies are used to treat chronic back pain that does not respond positively to over-the-counter medications and treatments. These treatments provide relief when a nerve associated with a facet joint becomes damaged or inflamed, sending pain signals to the brain.Any condition leading to damage of the intravertebral discs can lead to problems requiring a posterior facet block or rhizotomy. Facet joint problems include arthritis, age-related degeneration, and acute injuries. Age-related degeneration and arthritis cause a weakening of the facet joint, leading to irritation and inflammation of the tissue in and around the joint.

Facet joints are located between the vertebrae along the entire spine, so pain requiring a posterior facet joint block or rhizotomy can occur anywhere in the body. Pain in the lower body, from the legs through the abdomen, may be caused by lumbar facet joints; pain in the trunk region, such as the chest or back, may be due to problems with thoracic facet joints; pain in the shoulders, neck, or head may be due to the cervical facet joints.


Posterior facet blocks and rhizotomies are complementary outpatient procedures used to treat chronic back pain. A posterior facet block is used to reduce pain and inflammation at the joints of the spine. Although a posterior facet block alone may provide temporary relief, it may also be used to accurately diagnose the problematic nerves so that a rhizotomy may be performed. A rhizotomy destroys the problematic sensory nerve so that it can no longer send pain signals to the brain.Complications are usually minor, including redness, bleeding, and numbness. In the event that the destroyed nerve regenerates or the pain returns, your physician may recommend a subsequent rhizotomy up to a year later. These procedures allow for a high success rate of pain reduction leading to improved quality of life for many patients.


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Lumbar Medial Branch Block

Lumbar Medial Branch Block

What Is A Lumbar Medial Branch Block?

A lumbar medial branch block is a diagnostic procedure used to discern the etiology of chronic back pain related to the lumbar area of the spinal column. It involves injection of a local anesthetic near or around the medial branch nerves of the lumbar spine. The nerves exist in pairs on the posterior portion of the spinal column. The only function of these small nerves is to carry pain signals from the area of the facet joint toward the brain. Facet joints are found between the backbones, also known as vertebrae. These joints stabilize and allow for motion in the spine.Whenever a facet joint is irritated, inflamed, or damaged, it may lead to pain involving the buttocks, abdomen, low back, groin, or lower extremities. If a lumbar medial branch block does not decrease pain levels, the facet joint is most likely not the origin of back pain. If a lumbar medial branch block produces a dramatic decrease in pain levels, the facet joint is most likely the reason for the back pain. Hence, the block is indicated for diagnostic purposes, as opposed to therapeutic purposes, with regard to chronic low back pain.

How Is A Lumbar Medial Branch Block Performed?

A lumbar medial branch block is usually performed at an ambulatory surgical center, which can be freestanding or located within a hospital. After the patient signs informed consent forms, the procedure can go forward. On the day of the procedure, the patient lies in a supine position on a table. The lower back is cleansed with an antiseptic solution. Landmarks are palpated and the injection is marked with a felt tipped surgical pen.The outlined area of injection is infiltrated with a local anesthetic to provide loss of sensation. Full sedation is not routinely used during a lumbar medial branch block. A thin procedure needle is then inserted and advanced to an area near or around the medial branch nerves. To enhance accuracy of needle placement, the procedure can be done with X-ray guidance. Once needle placement is verified, contrast dye can be injected to ensure that the anesthetic will flood the correct area near or around the nerves. Once proper direction of flow is established with the contrast dye, the physician slowly injects an anesthetic and removes the needle.

Multiple levels of the lumbar spine can be injected using this technique. Some physicians mix the local anesthetic with a corticosteroid such as dexamethasone or betamethasone to prolong the action of the local anesthetic. Most patients report immediate relief of pain. If this is the case, facet joint disease is indeed the culprit. Any pain relief attributed to the injection is short-lived, and for this reason the patient will be referred for another procedure termed radiofrequency ablation (RFA). This procedure has the possibility to provide sustained pain relief in the case of back pain secondary to disease of the facet joints.

A lumbar medial branch block can be administered in 15 to 30 minutes. The procedure can be performed in the ambulatory surgery wing of a hospital or clinic. The vital signs and pain scores of the patient are monitored for at least 30 minutes post injection in a recovery area. Following the recovery from the procedure, the patient has to be transported home by another adult. Activity should be restricted for the balance of the day. Patients in the following situations should not receive a lumbar medial branch block:

  • Active infection
  • Treatment with a blood thinner
  • Allergies to any of the medications being injected

A lumbar medial branch block is a low risk procedure. The following complications, though rare, may be encountered:

  • Tenderness at the site of injection
  • Infection
  • Worsening of pain symptoms
  • Allergic reaction to medication injected
  • High blood sugar, if a steroid is used
  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage
  • Anesthetic toxicity
  • Bleeding
  • Headaches
  • Dysfunction of the bowel or bladder
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Paralysis
  • Intravascular injection of local anesthetis

Conditions Related To Lumbar Medial Branch Blocks

A lumbar medial branch block may be diagnostic in patients with the following diagnoses of the lumbar spine:

  • Disease of facet joints
  • Spondylosis, or degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis, which is an abnormal narrowing of the spine
  • Failed-back syndrome, also referred to as post-laminectomy syndrome, that is defined by no pain relief following back surgery

Most patients who receive lumbar medial branch blocks have failed more conservative therapy including anti-inflammatories, analgesics, opioids, gabapentin, physical therapy (PT), or chiropractic manipulation.


Lumbar medial branch blocks can be used to diagnose persistent low back pain secondary to disease of the facet joints. Medial branch nerves carry pain information from the spinal column to the brain. A lumbar medial branch block has the potential to pinpoint the exact facet joint that is transmitting pain signals.Patients with a favorable response to the block should give serious consideration to a therapeutic procedure called radiofrequency ablation (RFA).  It involves disruption of pain transmission by the medial branch nerves using a special heat probe. The procedure can provide pain relief anywhere from six months to one year. Both lumbar medial branch block and RFA are relatively safe.


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