Medial Branch Block

An injury or damage to the small joints in your back called the facet joints can cause long term recurring lower back pain.

What is a Medial Branch Block?

When a person experiences recurring back pain, this pain signal is transferred from your facet joints and muscles around the joint to your brain by medial branch nerves. If these nerves are blocked, they cannot move the pain sensation from the joint to the brain and thus reduce your recurring back pain.

Due to a variety of acute and chronic conditions, your facet joints can become inflamed and start to ache. The pain is usually in your lower back in the case of lumbar facet joints. You will feel the pain radiating across the lower back and slightly down your buttocks and thighs. As for cervical facet joints, you will feel the pain in the neck which radiates to your shoulder. The pain gets worse with neck movement.

A medial branch block is a strong local anesthetic injection given to your medial branch nerves that supply the facet joints. The injection consists of a small amount of long-acting local anesthesia. The injection blocks the medial branch nerves from sending pain signals to the brain. The effect of this injection is noted and if successful, the doctor will proceed with radio frequency ablation which offers long lasting pain relief.

How is the Medial Branch Block Procedure Performed?

Dr. Ali at The Pain, Spine and Sports Institute has several years of experience in performing the medial branch block procedure. He will perform the procedure under the guidance of an X-ray to avoid injury. The procedure includes the following steps:

  • Dr. Ali will start by explaining the procedure to you. He will check your medical history, allergies, and what medications you are taking to determine whether or not you are a candidate for treatment.
  • You will be asked to lie facing down on the X-ray table. You will not be sedated, but an IV line may be started if relaxation medication is required.
  • The skin in the area to be treated will be cleaned and Dr. Ali will use numbing medicine in the area as well.
  • With the help of an X-ray, a small needle is directed towards the medial branch nerve. Dr. Ali will then inject a small amount of contrast dye to ensure that the medicine covers the medial branch nerves.
  • Following this confirmation, Dr. Ali will inject a small amount of numbing medicine into each targeted nerve.

The whole procedure takes around 10 minutes. Since there are several pain generators in your spine, the degree of response will vary from one person to another.

If you are unsure whether you are a suitable candidate or not, Dr. Ali will help you determine this by going through your medical history and conducting a thorough examination to verify your eligibility. At The Pain, Spine and Sports Institute, our goal is to help you find relief from pain so you can get on with living.

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