What Are Medial Branch Blocks?

A medial branch block is 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 form of interventional pain management treats the facet joints (zygapophysial joints), which are supplied by medial branch nerves and are the projections of bone that comprise the spine, connecting from one vertebra to the next either from above or below. Expressly, facets are the outer protrusions on each section of vertebrae.

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 office visit usually lasts for about 60 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. If the back area is to receive the injection, you will be positioned on your stomach; if it is to treat your neck you will lie on your side.

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 won’t 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. Patients who take blood-thinning medications should also avoid medial branch blocks. Advise the doctor during the initial consultation of your current health condition.

Post-treatment Expectations

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 future treatment injections will work for alleviating pain more extensively.

At Tarpon Orthopedics, we offer comprehensive, patient-centered care that counts. Our multidisciplinary team focuses on providing sophisticated, yet conservative care to help you regain lost range of motion, reduce or eliminate pain, and restore lost function. Every day, we live out our mission: “To love and serve others,” for a wide range of orthopedic injuries and conditions. Call 9725961059 for an appointment at Tarpon Orthopedics in West Plano, North Plano, or Addison, Texas today!

Author
Crystal Vera

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