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Medial Branch Block


A medial branch block is a diagnostic procedure to identify a painful facet joint. The facet joints are between the vertebrae in the spine, allowing the spine to bend, flex, and twist. Medial branch nerves extend from the facet joint, transmitting pain signals from the joint to the brain.

If a patient has pain that appears to be coming from a facet joint, a medial branch block at a targeted nerve is an excellent way to determine whether the pain is coming from the facet joint or another anatomical location.

Medial Branch Nerve Block for Pain in Facet Joints

Medial branch nerves are tiny nerve branches that carry the pain message from a facet joint and the muscles around the joint. If the nerves are blocked or numb, they will not be able to transfer the pain sensation from the joints to the brain.

A cervical, thoracic, or lumbar medial branch block is an injection of a strong local anesthetic on the medial branch nerves that supply the facet joints. An injection to the small medial nerves connected to the facet joint can relieve significant pain.

Zygapophysial joints, or facet joints, make up the basic structure of the spine. Small bony projections from one vertebra meet similar projections from neighboring vertebrae to form the joints. Many different medical conditions can cause the joints to become inflamed and swollen.

In the lumbar facet joints of the lower back, the pain usually consists of general aching, which radiates across the back and may reach slightly down into the buttocks and/or upper thighs. Standing or bending backward will usually worsen the experience. Cervical facet joints in the neck will induce pain as an ache that may radiate across the neck and shoulders. When patients turn their heads or bend them up and down, the symptoms will get worse.


Benefits of Blocks to Medial Branch Nerves

As a part of a medical treatment plan for longer-term pain relief, your physician may recommend a medial branch block, a primarily diagnostic test, to determine if the source of the pain is the facet joint. Several injection sites may be used during the same procedure to test multiple areas of the spine at the same time.

If you experience pain relief from the medial branch block directly, your doctor will know conclusively that facet joint problems are to blame for your pain. Essentially, the medial branch block is a diagnostic tool used by physicians to provide sound professional medical advice to assist with pain relief.

When a patient’s pain from a specific facet joint is relieved within the appropriate time frame by a medial branch nerve block, your doctor at New York Spine Specialist will recommend the best treatment option to provide longer-term pain relief, such as medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy (or ablation).

Who Are Potential Candidates for Medial Branch Block Treatment?

Potential candidates for the medial branch block are those experiencing chronic pain, which is not relieved by any other treatment options. At New York Spine Specialist, we always start a patient’s pain treatment with conservative, non-invasive techniques. Physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, chiropractic care, and further treatments will be utilized initially.

Proper spine care requires the correct procedures, medications, and treatments. If those techniques fail to provide pain relief, our doctors and pain specialists may decide to use a cervical, thoracic, or lumbar medial branch block to help determine the source of your pain. The medial branch block is one of the diagnostic tools our team can use to make the proper determination in an individual patient’s case.

How Do Medial Branch Blocks Work?

The patient lies down on their stomach. The doctor then cleans the skin on their back with an antiseptic and injects them with a local anesthetic. Once the anesthetic takes effect, the nerve block is performed under X-ray guidance (fluoroscopy) to ensure that the tiny needle is injected into the exact right location. Our doctors at New York Spine Specialist may also use a small amount of contrast dye to improve visualization of the joints and nerves.

If the source of your pain is the facet joint, you will likely feel relief immediately after the injection. The relief should last for a few hours. Depending upon the medication injected, the effect can last from 1 hour to 6 hours or more. The patient will be monitored for any allergic reaction, such as the start of a burning sensation at the needle placement.

Are You Experiencing Serious Pain in Your Facet Joint and Need Relief? We Can Help!

When you are experiencing a lot of pain in your cervical, thoracic, or lumbar spine, you need to see a doctor who specializes in treating spine problems. Our team at New York Spine Specialist can help you find relief from your pain. One of the diagnostic tools we use to determine if your pain originates in a facet joint is the medial branch nerve block.

At New York Spine Specialist, our team is here to help you get the pain relief you desperately need so that you can return to your everyday life. With the use of medial branch blocks, we can determine the source of your pain and use that information to develop a customized treatment plan. This may include radiofrequency neurotomy or ablation.

Our New York Spine Specialist team understands that Living in pain and discomfort can be very difficult. It can prevent you from completing daily activities and make your life much harder. We accept most insurance plans, including no-fault and workers’ compensation. If you are ready to rid yourself of this spinal anguish, contact New York Spine Specialist to schedule an appointment with our spine care experts.