The most important information used in the diagnosis of facet joint syndrome is your description of your pain. A diagnostic X-ray, MRI, or CT scan is useful in looking for arthritis or other degenerative changes that may be associated with facet joint syndrome.
Often facet joint related pain is diagnosed through a facet joint injection or a medial branch nerve block. In a facet joint injection, live x-ray imaging, called fluoroscopy, is used to guide the needle into the joint. Numbing medication and a steroid is injected.
This injection can be useful for diagnosis as well as treatment. However, a more definitive way to diagnose facet joint pain is a procedure called a medial branch block. The medial branch nerve supplies feeling to the facet joint. This nerve can be numbed with local anesthetic to determine if that relieves the pain.
If the patient’s pain goes away after the injection, it can be inferred that the pain generator is the facet joint.