A medial branch block is a minimally invasive pain management procedure for back pain available at Novus Spine & Pain Center. The procedure can help diagnose and relieve sacroiliac joint pain, facet joint pain, and osteoarthritis of the back.
A medial branch block is similar to a facet injection but injects the medicine outside of the joint space. In contrast, a facet injection places the medication directly into the facet joint. Both treatments, however, can help block pain signals from reaching the brain.
Medial branch blocks are a minimally invasive, non-surgical injection to treat neck and back pain. The block disrupts pain signals sent from the medial branch nerves to the brain. A medial branch block consists of injecting an anesthetic near small medial nerves connected to a specific facet joint. The medicine in the injection interrupts sensory nerve signals to the brain. Typically, several facet joints receive an injection during the procedure.
A medial branch block is primarily a diagnostic procedure. If the patient experiences marked pain relief immediately after the injection, then the procedure confirms that the patient’s pain originates from the facet joint receiving the injection.
Conditions Treated with a Medial Branch Block
Specific pain conditions that medial branch blocks may help include:
Sciatic pain (commonly called sciatica) is not a specific medical condition, but medial branch blocks can help alleviate sciatic pain so that additional treatment can address the underlying condition.
A medial branch block may have one of three possible outcomes:
As a diagnostic tool, if the injection does not cause the pain to go away, the injection is an indication that the pain is most likely not coming from the targeted facet joints.
If the pain goes away and stays away for a few hours but returns and does not improve over time, the pain is probably coming from the joints. As a diagnostic tool, the doctor learns the steroid medication in the injection did not benefit the patient.
As a therapeutic treatment, if the pain goes away after the injection, returns, but then gets better again over the next few days, the steroid had the desired long-lasting effect on the pain.
If the injections provide positive, long-lasting pain management benefits, additional injections can be given in the same area three times within six months. However, should there be positive but short-term benefits, the patient may be considered a candidate for radiofrequency ablation (the use of heat to destroy a portion of the nerve causing pain) for long-term pain relief. Radiofrequency ablation can help provide pain relief for several months or even years.
Medial branch blocks generally provide sufficient pain relief so the patient can resume normal daily activities. The doctor will often have the patient participate in physical therapy and other treatments to support healing.
How Does a Medial Branch Block Work?
As with other spinal injections, a medial branch block procedure is usually performed under fluoroscopy (live X-ray) so the injection can properly target the nerves causing pain. The injection consists of a mixture of a long-lasting steroid and a local anesthetic into the area adjacent to the medial nerve or nerves suspected of causing the pain. The steroid helps reduce inflammation and irritation, while the anesthetic works to numb the pain immediately.
Some patients may require more than one injection to achieve pain relief. However, most patients experience pain relief that lasts up to several months after each injection.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and treats patients with chronic pain with numerous therapies, including medial branch blocks. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.