Your back pain doctor may order a medial branch block as a diagnostic tool to find the cause of your back pain. Medial branch nerves are small and they radiate from the facet joints in your spine. They are important because they carry pain signals to the brain. Your back pain doctor can use this block procedure to help find the problems that you are having with your back. If you notice an immediate reduction in pain, then the doctor will know that the source of your pain is with the facet joint.
The procedure involves an injection of anesthetic into an area close to the suspected joint. In most cases, the doctor will inject several areas at the same time to help determine exactly which joint is causing the problem. It should be noted that a medial branch block is used mostly to diagnose the source of the pain. Treatment, once the problem is identified, may involve a medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy, also known as ablation.
If the medial branch block confirms that a facet joint is involved, the ablation procedure may be considered for long-term relief from pain. In the ablation procedure, a certain type of injection is used that forms a lesion on the affected nerve that is carrying pain signals out to the patient’s brain. The goal is to stop this signal but to keep the nerve functional in its others purposes.
Medial Branch Block Procedure:
Your back pain doctor will perform the block using fluoroscopy, which is real-time x-ray, to guide the injection needle to the proper nerves. When the needle is in place, contrast dye is injected to ensure that the medial branch nerve is covered with the medicine. At this point, anesthestic is injected into the nerve area. The whole procedure is usually completed within thirty minutes.
Once the procedure is finished, your back pain doctor will have you rest for a few minutes. You will be asked to do a few movements that would cause the pain. If the procedure was successful, no pain will result from these motions.
Risks of Medial Branch Blocks:
The risks associated with this procedure are few. They include: allergic reaction to the meds used; bleeding (which is very rare); infection, which is also very rare.
Your back pain doctor will need to know before ordering the block if you are on any type of medication, especially blood thinning meds. You will also need to report any active infections that you may have as this may cause the doctor to postpone your block until the infection is cleared up. Also, if you have any type of allergies, you must report that to the doctor.
If you have been suffering from back pain, you should visit a back pain clinic as soon as possible. Many back pain problems only get worse as time goes by, and early diagnosis and treatment by an experienced back pain doctor is always your best option. You do not have suffer with back pain!