Medial Branch Blocks

Medial branch blocks are a diagnostic test used by pain management doctors for the express purpose of discovering sources of pain and easing discomfort. Medial branch blocks are accomplished by injecting local anesthetic on the medial branch nerves. This injection may help your doctor determine the primary source of your pain. Successful injections will result in the temporary alleviation of pain, and are conducted in order to determine if future radiofrequency ablation will work for alleviating pain for up to 18 months.

Identifying Facet Joint Pain

Inflammation in the lumbar facet joints results in achiness in the lower back and through the upper thighs and buttocks. Cervical facets joints can become inflamed and cause a similar achiness in the neck and shoulders. Symptoms in the lower back get worse with standing and bending. Cervical pain increases with the simple turning of the head from side to side. Even the stress on facet joints from looking up can cause discomfort.

Alleviating Facet Joint Pain

Facet joint pain is alleviated with a simple injection of a strong, long-acting, local anesthetic on the medial branch nerves. The procedure visit usually lasts for about 90-120 minutes, although the actual injection takes much less time. During the time not undergoing the procedure, your doctor will explain what will take place and what to expect.

The Procedure

There is very little pain involved with medial branch blocks. You will be positioned on your stomach. The initial shot basically amounts to a tiny pinch. This injection is to numb the skin where the procedural needle will be injected. The skin becomes numb and a very slight burning sensation may ensue as the anesthetic accomplishes the job of numbing the skin. The actual medial branch block injection will not hurt at all, though the patient will experience some pressure at the injection site. During the procedure, the patient’s oxygen level and blood pressure will be monitored, and tiny needles will be used to mark the medial branch nerves’ location. Each branch nerve will receive a very small volume from the injection.

Risk Factors

There are very few risks associated with medial branch blocks. Some patients experience some pain at the injection site, which is normal and temporary. Rarely will a patient have infection, bleeding, or nerve damage, which are slight risk factors. Patients with allergies to the medications to be injected should not undergo the procedure. Advise the doctor during the initial consultation of your current health condition.

Post Treatment

Successful medial branch blocks will result in the alleviation of pain, which should subside for a short time, possibly a few hours or even a few days. The results vary from patient to patient. The level of pain relief will determine if radiofrequency ablation will work for alleviating pain more extensively.

For more information, please visit or call our office to discuss with our board-certified physicians at 972-596-1059.

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