A medial branch block is an injection of a local anesthetic and steroid outside of the spinal joint space near the medial branch, which is the nerve that supplies the joint. Medial branch blocks are usually performed for patients with low back pain due to arthritis of the facet joints or for mechanical causes of low back discomfort.
What exactly is a medial branch block?
There are joints located within the spinal area called facet joints, and the medical branch blocks work to provide different sensations to these joints. The joints located within a spine are very small in size, as they are close to the size of a thumbnail, yet they play a crucial role in proper spine functioning. The joints are located on either side of the spinal cord, and they allow the spine to work within its full range of motion.
Can the medial branch block be effective for pain relief?
When pain is experienced within the spinal area, blocking the medial nerves can provide the patient with relief. This is because the branches of the nerve endings are no longer able to send of the signals of pain to the brain, thus stopping the discomfort completely.
Which conditions are treated with a medial branch block?
A medial branch block is used to treat a variety of painful conditions that are present within the spinal area. There are two causes of the pain that are treated through the use of medial branch blocks.
When the pain experienced is caused by degenerative facet arthritis, or irritation to nerves within the spine, blocking off the branches can be effective for treatment. The pain that is experienced in the joints or nerves may be caused by trauma to the area, damage associated with wear-and-tear, conditions such as arthritis, or whiplash to the spine.
What tests are done before the medial branch block?
In order to determine if the medial branch block will be an effective method of treatment, there are a few tests the patient must undergo prior to having the block done. These tests determine the cause of pain in the spine, and rule out other problems that could be causing the pain. Various testing methods include x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), physical exam and nerve conduction studies.
Are there more than one type of medial branch block?
There is only one type of medial branch block, but there are two different reasons a medial branch block is performed. The first reason is considered to be diagnostic, while the second type is therapeutic. Regardless of the type of block that is completed, they are both done in a similar manner for the patient.
A Las Vegas Pain Doctor will perform the procedure in an outpatient facility, and anesthesia is used during the process in order to allow the patient to remain comfortable during the procedure.
How is a medial branch block performed?
During the medial branch block procedure, a special tool that allows the Las Vegas Pain Management Doctor to see a live image x-ray is used. This x-ray allows the doctor to see the work he is doing in real time, as any surgery with the spinal area of the body needs to be done precisely.
By using the x-ray image, the doctor will insert a needle into the spinal nerves, in order to numb the area and stop the pain. The needle can contain numbing agents, steroids, and other medications. By inserting the needle into each nerve ending, the pain will be blocked.
What happens after the medial branch block procedure?
After the medial branch block procedure is completed, the patient is monitored for an hour, which allows the Las Vegas pain management clinic to ensure there are no negative side-effects to the medicine used, and to evaluate the pain within the spinal area. For those who receive this treatment, the success rate is high, with effectiveness of 8 to 90 percent.
If the procedure is effective and wears off, then another procedure can be performed. Or the patient may then have a radiofrequency ablation, which may offer 12 to 18 months of consistent pain relief.
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