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Audit of conservative management of chronic low back pain in a secondary care setting – part I: facet joint and sacroiliac joint interventions
  1. Robin Chakraverty, musculoskeletal and sports physician1,
  2. Richard Dias, specialist registrar in orthopaedic surgery2
  1. 1
    Spinal Unit
  2. 2
    Royal Orthopaedic, Hospital, Birmingham
  1. robin.chakraverty{at}


The work of a chronic back pain service in secondary care in the West Midlands is reported. The service offers acupuncture, spinal injection procedures, osteopathy and a range of other interventions for patients whose back pain has not responded to conservative management. This section of the report focuses on injection procedures for lumbar facet joint and sacroiliac joint pain, which have been shown to be the cause of chronic low back pain in 16–40% and 13–19% of patients respectively. Diagnosis relies on the use of intra-articular or sensory nerve block injections with local anaesthetic. Possible treatments following diagnosis include intra-articular corticosteroid, radiofrequency denervation (for facet joint pain) or ligament prolotherapy injections (for sacroiliac joint pain). The results of several hospital audits are reported. At six month follow up, 50% of 38 patients undergoing radiofrequency denervation following diagnostic blocks for facet joint pain had improved by more than 50%, compared to 29% of 34 patients treated with intra-articular corticosteroid injection. Sixty three per cent of 19 patients undergoing prolotherapy following diagnostic block injection for sacroiliac joint pain had improved at six months, compared to 33% of 33 who had intra-articular corticosteroid. Both radiofrequency denervation and sacroiliac prolotherapy showed good long-term outcomes at one year.

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