Medial branch blocks are injections that are used to determine whether a patients chronic pain stems from the medial nerves surrounding one of the facet joints of the spine. These tiny nerves are responsible for the sensations felt in the joints including pain.
By temporarily anesthetizing the medial branch nerves, an assessment can be made concerning whether those nerves are responsible for the pain a patient has been experiencing. If patients experience pain relief following a medial branch block injection, doctors can make a definitive diagnosis and begin exploring options for treatment such as a neurotomy, which can provide long-term pain relief that lasts up to a year or more. If patients do not experience any pain relief following the procedure, the medial nerves at the site of the injection are not the source of the pain.
Administering a Medial Branch Block
Medial branch blocks are administered using a very fine needle. Patients are usually awake for the procedure but will feel minimal discomfort due to the use of a local anesthetic. Because the medial branch nerves are very small, the injection is guided by live imaging fluoroscopy. A small amount of numbing agent is applied to the affected area in a procedure that typically takes less than a half hour to complete. The recovery process is minimal, and most patients can return to normal activity within 24 hours.
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