FAQs on Medial Branch Blocks
Medial branch block is one of the most effective methods to diagnose and treat neck and back pain originating in arthritis-impacted facet joints. A successful alternative to surgery, the nerve block procedure first introduced in 1994 assures faster recovery and superior pain control than medication. Medial branch blocks with pain doctors in Boulder and Loveland offer swift and long term pain management encouraging many patients to opt for it to treat chronic cervical and lumbar facet joint pain.
What is medial branch block?
Medial branch blocks involve injecting numbing medication to the medial branch nerves responsible for feeding out facet joints in the spine. The procedure disrupts pain signals carried by these nerves from facet joints and inhibit their transmission to the spinal cord leading to relief to patients from painful conditions.
Medial branch blocks are almost similar to facet joint block injections except that this procedure places numbing medication outside joints targeting nerves. Facet joint injections treat cartilage inflammation while medial branch block focuses on numbing tiny nerves that feed out the joints.
What is injected during medial branch blocks?
Depending on patient condition, doctors use only numbing medication or combine it with steroid to ensure pain relief. The numbing medication is a local anesthetic, such as lidocaine. Cortisone is the most used steroid mixed with it.
Studies indicate that the mixture of steroid and local anesthetic offer longer relief from pain symptoms. The combined medication is also required for those with intense medial branch nerve inflammation or irritation.
What conditions are treated using medial branch block?
Medial branch block is considered useful when patients experience with following conditions.
- Facet syndrome or pain originating in cervical or lumbar vertebra joints
- Spinal osteoarthritis affecting neck and lumbar areas
- Pain due to arthritis affecting neck and back facet joints
- Neck pain traced to the cervical spine
- Pain in the lower back spine
- Pain due to narrowing of the spinal canal
How do medial branch blocks work?
Arthritis, injury and degeneration of cartilage in facet joints result in inflammation and painful conditions. Tiny medial branch nerves connecting these facet joints carry pain signals to the spinal cord and then to the brain. There is also possibility that these nerves get irritated and inflamed due to the inflammation in facet joints.
Administration of numbing medication precisely ensures that pain sensation is disrupted and prevented from reaching to brain. Lack of sensory communication ensures no pain is perceived by patients. Simultaneous use of steroid treats inflammation.
When does a patient need medial branch blocks?
Medial branch blocks are useful in diagnosis as well as treatment of facet joint pain in the neck and back. Doctors use the method to examine if neck or back pain is originating in the facet joints. If the blocking provides relief from radiating pain, patients are diagnosed with painful condition associated with facet syndrome. In case of no relief, more diagnostic methods are used to find out the exact reason of the pain.
When conservative therapies and medications fail to provide any relief from neck and back pain and patients do not consider surgery as an option, medial branch blocks are performed to alleviate painful conditions.
How beneficial is medial branch block?
- Medial branch blocks, as indicated by research reports, provide 80 percent relief to patients with cervical facet joint pain.
- A study claims pain relief amounting to 53 percent over eight weeks and 68 percent over 25 weeks experienced by patients after the nerve block procedure. (Acta Orthopaedica Belgica, 2007)
- The procedure is highly beneficial for those suffering from chronic lower back pain. (Pain Physician, 2007)
- In 2007, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians acknowledged the accuracy of medial branch blocks in effective diagnosis of lumbar and cervical pain associated with facet joint problem.
- Studies published in the Spine journal also speak of high success rate in managing pain following treatment with this procedure.
Who is a candidate for medial branch blocks?
A candidate for medial branch block must have
- overall good health
- neck or back pain originating from facet joints in the spine
- not been taking blood thinners or suffering from any active infections
- no known allergy to anesthesia or steroid
How is medial branch block done?
Patients sleep with face down and an IV is used relax them. A local anesthesia is used to numb the skin and soft tissues in the pain area. Sedation is not really necessary, it can be used if a person is claustrophobic or had a good experience in the past with it.
A needle is inserted into the area of the medial branch nerves around the facet joint considered to be the source of pain. This is performed under real-time x-ray (fluoroscopy) to avoid any damage to nerves or blood vessels.
First, dye is injected to confirm the needle position. Then, the medication is delivered to the targeted place. It may be alone a numbing agent or a mixed with a steroid, subject to patient requirement.
How long do medial branch blocks take?
Medial branch blocks for a single facet joint takes 15 to 30 minutes. Colorado pain management doctors can perform multiple blocks in a single sitting if there is a need.
What should I expect after the procedure?
Patients are kept in the procedure center for an hour under medical observation and discharged thereafter. Rest is suggested for 24 hours and the activity level is subject to tolerance. There may be injection-site soreness, but it goes away in 24 to 48 hours. Use ice packs to ease the soreness and avoid stress.
How long does the pain relief last?
One nerve block assures pain relief from three to six months depending on patient condition, as attested by studies, patient experience and post-marketing surveys. Radiofrequency ablation following the block prolongs the pain relief.
How many medial branch block injections should I have?
If the pain relief is at least 50 percent, patients can repeat medial branch blocks after a certain period of time, as suggested by your doctor.
When will I have pain relief?
Pain relief is visible immediately after the procedure. However, the real benefits are experienced after 2/3 days once the inflammation is soothed.
What are the side effects of medial branch blocks?
- Common side effects include stiffness or soreness at the site of injection for up to two days.
- Errors by doctors during the procedure may cause bleeding damage to blood vessels, infection and injury to nerves.
- Those allergic to steroid may face the risk of enhance blood sugar and stomach ulcer.
Colorado Clinic offers the top pain relief with several clinics in Northern Colorado including Boulder, Loveland and Greeley. The Board Certified, Fellowship Trained physicians are highly trained in over 25 interventional pain procedures, including both medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablation.
Call the location closes today for the top back and neck pain relief available!