Overview & Procedure
A medial branch block is a minimally invasive injection procedure that provides pain relief to patients suffering from conditions affecting the facet joints, including facet joint syndrome. Medial branch nerves come out of the facet joints in the spine and send pain signals to the brain. If the facet joints deteriorate or become damaged, they eventually compress the medial branch nerves, causing immense pain and discomfort. Fortunately, medial branch blocks can help significantly reduce a patient’s pain and inflammation by injecting an anesthetic and steroid medication into the affected area.
It’s important to note that medial branch blocks are used primarily for diagnostic reasons. If the patient experiences adequate pain relief from the procedure, a physician at Southwest Spine and Pain Center may suggest a subsequent therapy called radiofrequency ablation for longer lasting pain relief. During the procedure, the physician will clean and numb the injection site before using ultrasound guidance to administer the medial branch block. This diagnostic imaging tool allows physicians to determine where spine damage is present. The physician will administer the medication into the patient’s spine and ask if he or she experiences any pain relief shortly afterward. If the patient says yes, the procedure is deemed a success. Multiple injections may be needed to provide adequate pain relief.
After the injection, patients are sent home to rest and recover. Because medial branch blocks utilize an anesthetic during the procedure, patients may need a friend or loved one to drive them home. Patients may be asked to avoid strenuous physical activity for at least 24 hours after the procedure. After the anesthetic wears off, patients may experience pain near the injection site. This is normal, as the steroid medication takes a few days to take effect. Once it does, patients should experience pain relief lasting several weeks or months. Patients should contact their SWSP spine and pain care specialist immediately if they develop a fever, rash, or infection near the injection site.