Frequently Asked Questions on Medial Branch Nerve Block
What are medial branches?
What is a medial branch block?
To prevent these pain signals from reaching the brain, Colorado pain management doctors perform a diagnostic and therapeutic procedure commonly known as a medial branch block. This implies numbing or blocking the nerves in such a way that the spinal cord will not receive any more pain sensations. Think of this procedure like a temporary cut of any electrical circuit or wires.
The procedure itself can actually help with the pain relief, for example if the pain is associated with facet joint arthritis, or it can provide doctors useful information that will eventually help them find out the real source for your joint problem. Studies show an average of 3 months pain relief with medial branch blocks! The medial branch block takes only a few minutes.
What’s the procedure?
Prior to the injection, patients are monitored with devices that measure their blood pressure and blood oxygen level. The local area is sterilized using antiseptic solutions and then the injection takes place by inserting the needle through skin and the deeper tissues, and releasing the liquid consisting of a steroid and in most cases, a local anesthetic such as lidocaine. There can be a slight discomfort, but in order to relax the patient, prior to the actual joint injection, the patient’s skin and tissues are numbed using a very thin needle that injects anesthetic. Most patients, especially the ones suffering from back pain, are asked to lie on their stomach while the ones experiencing neck pain are required to lie on their side or back.
What to expect after a medial branch nerve block?
Due to the local anesthetic, right after the procedure is done you may feel a decrease in pain for couple of hours, but the pain will return and you may experience a sore back, or neck, for the following days. Depending on the medication used, the effect of the anesthetic can last anywhere between two to eight or nine hours. Following the injection, it is crucial that you keep track of your condition for the next 12 hours, since your response to the procedure will indicate if the joint facets are the actual cause of your pain. Usually one medial branch block is enough to determine the actual source of your problem, however please bear in mind that 30 to 40 percent of patients experience the “placebo effect” in the form of a false positive response, and in such cases, doctors might recommend you to repeat the injection.
Once the procedure is done and the doctor gives you the go ahead to leave the clinic, you will need someone else to drive you home. When you get home, it’s advisable to take it easy for the next days, and also to apply ice on the joint area 3-5 times a day.
Colorado Clinic offers Board Certified pain management services at several locations in Northern Colorado including Greeley, Loveland and Boulder. Both medication management and interventional procedures are offered, call today!