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A medial branch block is an injection delivered to the nerves of facet joints in the lower spine and is used as a diagnostic tool. Medial branch blocks test the likely outcome of using a more permanent nerve block, such as radiofrequency ablation. If the nerve pain stops after a medial branch block has been administered, it’s a reliable indicator that you would benefit from a long-term nerve-blocking therapy. Medial branch blocks can be used to help diagnose and subsequently treat lower back pain and sciatica.
During the medial branch block procedure, a small needle is inserted into the back and used to inject a small amount of anesthetic along the nerves being treated. If a patient experiences instant relief after the injection, your surgeon at Kayal Pain & Spine Center can confidently diagnose that facet joint as the cause of your pain.
The immediate numbing effect of a medial branch block lasts only a few hours, while the anti-inflammatory will help relieve pain for several weeks. In some cases, medial branch blocks can be used to enable you to undergo physical therapy, allowing you to complete movement exercises and build up strength that can help relieve or eliminate symptoms over the longer term.
What to expect before, during and after medial branch block
You don’t need to take special steps before a medial branch block procedure. Instead, you should maintain your regular everyday activities to ensure the results are as accurate as possible.
Immediately after you receive the medial branch block, you’ll be asked to move around and try to re-create the pain you’ve been experiencing. If specific actions tend to bring on pain, you should complete those actions while the block is in effect. If you have a notable reduction in pain, your specialist at Kayal Pain & Spine Center will talk to you about the possibility of an additional long-term nerve block or radiofrequency ablation.
Within a few hours of the procedure, the numbing effect of the nerve block will wear off. However, the anti-inflammatory included in medial branch blocks will stay in your body for several weeks. Many patients find ongoing pain relief from it. It’s up to you to listen to your body and determine its limits, although many people can temporarily perform activities that weren’t previously possible.
Discover the advantages
Immediate pain relief is one major benefit of medial branch blocks, due to the numbing and anti-inflammatory medications within the nerve block. However, the primary benefit of medial branch blocks is their ability to determine the likely outcome of longer-term therapies, including radiofrequency ablation.
In addition, many patients who receive medial branch blocks are suddenly able to begin physical therapy, enabling them to build a stronger body. Physical therapy can often help reduce or eliminate the pain of many spine-related conditions even after the anti-inflammatories have worn off.
Recent evidence suggests that medial branch blocks may be more effective in treating pain than facet joint injections. As a result, many surgeons are beginning to favor medial branch blocks as one of the first lines of defense against pain caused by the facet joints. Your surgeon at Kayal Pain & Spine Center will fully explore the best course of treatment with you.