Treating Chronic Headaches with Facet Injections

May 15, 2013

Before determining whether you are qualified for migraine procedure or surgery , it is necessary to understand whether you suffer with a chronic headache condition or chronic migraine.  Cervicogenic headache is an example of a secondary headache condition that can be mistaken for migraines. Unlike chronic migraines, which are primary headaches, secondary headaches arise from an underlying illness, condition or injury and can be tricky to identify.  Cervicogenic headaches originate in the neck region of the spine, when one or more cervical facet joints become inflamed. The pain can be experienced anywhere from the shoulder blade area up into the head. Facet joints are located on both sides of each spinal vertebra, allowing for movement of the vertebrae against each other.

Cervical facet injections are used to treat chronic headaches, but are not meant to treat migraines.  When conservative therapies and medication don’t alleviate headache pain and other symptoms, facet injections may be used to help diagnose or even treat the condition.  If in fact the chronic headaches aren’t migraines, but rather secondary symptoms from cervical facet joint inflammation, migraine surgery will not be needed.  In this circumstance, facet injections can help reduce joint inflammation and treat the pain from affected nerves in the head.   The injections contain a steroid to reduce inflammation, and an anesthetic to diminish pain.

When undergoing a facet injection procedure, the patient may be sedated.  The injections are administered with the aid of a fluoroscopic x-ray and injectible dye to help navigate the accurate placement of the thin needle that is inserted into the affected facet joint.  The medication is then injected into the site.  According to it takes a couple of days for the steroids to start working, and relief from pain may be experienced for up to several months.  If the headaches continue, additional injections or a surgical procedure may be required.  If the facet injections were used to confirm a diagnosis of chronic migraines, it may be appropriate at this point to proceed along the treatment continuum with the Omega Migraine Procedure.

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