A medial branch block is a procedure that is used to interrupt pain signals deriving from the facet joints. Medial branch nerves transport pain signals from the facet joints and surrounding muscles to the brain. If the nerves are numbed, they cannot transmit these pain signals to the brain and pain relief is achieved.
5 Things to Know about Medial Branch Blocks
1. Medial branch blocks can be used to treat back, neck and thoracic spine pain: The medial nerves are located at all spinal levels, and these include the cervical section which is the neck area, the thoracic region which is the upper/mid back and the lumbosacral region which is the lower back area.
When the facet joints are inflamed or arthritic, they often produce pain signals. The injection works to prevent pain by interrupting the signals from reaching the brain.
2. The injection is very safe: Although the medial branch nerves control small muscles throughout the spine, blocking them does not come with grave consequences. This is because the medial branch nerves have minimum control over major muscles. Interrupting the sensation is basically harmless.
3. The injection is primarily diagnostic: A lot of people identify the medial branch block injection as pain relief therapy. While it does indeed work to provide pain relief, the primary purpose of this injection is to provide diagnosis.
If a patient experiences pain relief after the injection, they may be required to undergo a subsequent procedure to deal with the main underlying issue and gain long term pain relief. The purpose of the injection is to identify whether or not the facet joints are the cause of the back pain.
4. The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes: This is an uncomplicated procedure that should take no more than half an hour. Usually, the injection will take a few minutes but there are other processes involved. These include the preparation stage where the patient could be sedated if they wish to. Application of numbing medicine is also done before the procedure as well as a contrast dye test which is undertaken to ensure that the medication is directed to the right area and that it is on the targeted medial branch nerve.
The injection consists of a local anesthetic: Medial branch blocks contain only a small amount of local anesthetic such as lidocaine. The medication takes immediate effect and depending on the anesthetic injected, the medication could last from an hour to six hours or even a much longer duration.
Medial Branch Blocks: What Are The Results?
A medial branch block injection may not necessarily provide immediate pain relief and this will depend on whether or not the targeted nerves are the ones carrying the pain signals. However, if the patient obtains pain relief, the Denver pain management doctor will have found the appropriate nerves.
If the block provides considerable pain relief four to six hours after the injection, the patient may have to undergo another procedure that will provide a longer duration of pain relief. Radiofrequency ablation or radiofrequency neurotomy could be considered after the medial branch block.
RF ablation has been shown to offer anywhere from 6 to 18 months in over 75% of patients. It’s been a revolutionary procedure in pain management.