Medial Branch Blocks

What is a Medial Branch block?

This is an injection of numbing medicine. It bathes the medial branch nerves, which attach to the facet joints of your spine. These nerves hurt when facet joints are injured or diseased. The injection helps find the source of your pain. And it may relieve your pain for a brief time.

The facet joints are the joints in your spine that allow mobility such as bending & twisting. These joints may be the source of pain due to trauma, inflammation, degeneration, as well as other causes.

  1. The cervical facet joints may be the source of pain in the neck, head, shoulders, and shoulder blades.
  2. The lumbar facet joints may be the source of pain in the lower back, buttock, hip or groin.

A medial branch block is a diagnostic injection to verify the facet joints as the source of pain. A needle is inserted through the skin toward the joint capsule via a ‘live’ X-ray machine called a fluoroscopy.  The medial branch is the nerve to the facet joint.  Medication is injected to ‘anesthetize’ the medial branch.  A successful block with good pain relief is usually followed by a Rhizotomy or Radifrquency Ablation.

A Rhizotomy or Radifrequency Ablation is done in the same manner as a medial branch block. Instead of just anesthetizing the nerve, a probe with heat up will stop the medial branch from sending pain.  The procedure is designed to last longer than the medial branch block.

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