The cause of back pain isn’t always clear, so physicians must sometimes rule out suspected causes to determine the actual condition. A medial branch nerve block is one way to do that.
Medial branch nerves are located within the spine’s facet joints. When the facet joints are inflamed or arthritic, these nerves can be irritated and back pain is a common symptom. A medial branch nerve block is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that can help us determine if facet joint dysfunction (also known as facet syndrome), is what’s causing back pain.
Facet joints connect adjacent spinal bones, and if they become inflamed or begin to break down due to wear and tear, they can cause painful nerve irritation. If we suspect a patient has facet syndrome, we use a medial branch nerve block to confirm (or rule out) that hypothesis – if injections of pain-relieving medication into the facet joints do not improve symptoms, then we eliminate facet syndrome as the cause of pain and move on to other diagnostic procedures.
This procedure may take an hour or more, depending on how many injections a patient receives in a single visit. Soreness and mild bruising may occur afterward, but those symptoms clear up within a day or two. If the medial branch block does alleviate the pain, that identifies that joint as part of the problem. In this case, we may recommend radiofrequency ablation (also called radiofrequency rhizotomy) as a treatment option. If the medial branch nerve block did not alleviate pain, subsequent tests and procedures are usually necessary to determine the condition that’s causing back pain.
If healthcare providers have been unable to diagnose the cause of your back pain, a medial branch nerve block might provide the answers you’re looking for. Complete the form below, or call today to schedule your consultation: (614) 383-6450.