Medial branch blocks are use specifically in the treatment and diagnosis of facet mediated pain in the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar region of the spine. Facet mediated pain is typically localized pain of specific region of your spine that can be caused by arthritis (spondylosis) in the facet joints. The facet joints are the joints that give your spine mobility and flexibility. Sometimes when there is inflammation in these joints it will cause pain in your neck or lower back.
A medial branch nerve block is a procedure in which an anesthetic is injected near small medial branch nerves connected to a specific facet joint. Sedation or a pre-medication is offered for patient comfort and safety during the procedure, as well as an x-ray technique known as fluoroscopy is used to position the needles accurately.
When the medial nerves are blocked with an anesthetic the patient should experience pain relief or numbness to the injected area. Typically several levels of the spine are injected in one procedure. This relief is only intended to last up anywhere from 8-24 hours. This pain relief tells your provider that your facets are the source of your neck, or back pain.
Relief is considered a positive response to the injection and because of this positive response the next step is a radiofreqency ablation of the nerve which is designed to provide more long term relief.