What to Expect During a Medial Branch Block

What to Expect During a Medial Branch Block

Your back pain isn’t getting any better. You might also have pain radiating down your leg. You’ve had X-rays and tried ice, medication, rest, and gentle exercise, but the cause hasn’t been defined. You can’t keep functioning at half-speed. You’re missing regular leisure activities because of the debilitating pain. 

The caring staff at Apollo Pain Management specialize in getting to the root of your back pain and prescribing next steps in treatment to relieve it. You may be a candidate for a medial branch block

Why do I need a medial branch block? 

A medial branch block is a diagnostic procedure that helps determine the source of your pain. 

Your pain may be coming from the medial branch nerves around the facet joints. The facet joints in your spine allow you to move your body in different positions — to bend over, to twist and turn. The joints have cartilage between the bones and are surrounded by a fluid-producing capsule with many nerves around it. These small medial branch nerves around the facet joints send pain messages from the joints to the brain.

Your spinal cord with its facet joints bears a tremendous amount of weight over your lifetime. Think about every time you sit or stand; your spinal joints have to support you. Over time and normal wear and tear, you may experience degenerative arthritis in the joints. Your nerves may become inflamed. A medial branch block determines if the medial nerves around the facet joints are causing your pain. 

What happens during a medial branch block? 

There’s no reason to be afraid to undergo this procedure. You’re in expert hands. The block targets the medial branch nerves to see if they are the cause of your pain. You lie on your stomach on the surgical table, and our staff thoroughly cleans the treatment areas. Our staff numbs your skin, which is the only part of the procedure during which you feel anything — just a very brief stinging sensation.

Your expert, board-certified physician places a needle at the location of your medial branch nerves. Using X-ray guidance to place the needle, he injects a dye with contrast that covers the nerve. Then he injects an anesthetic into each targeted nerve. 

The hours immediately following the injections are key. If you experience significant relief — at least an 80 percent improvement — in the first four to six hours after the procedure, then the medial branch nerves are the root cause of your back pain. If you don’t gain relief, those nerves are not the culprit, and another approach is needed. 

If the procedure works and you do gain relief, you’re eligible for a medial branch radiofrequency ablation. This procedure uses radio waves to prevent the targeted medial branch nerves from sending pain messages to your brain. If you experienced great pain relief from the medial branch block, you may gain months of relief from the ablation. Individual results vary. 

Recovery from a medial branch block 

An ice pack can help relieve any discomfort in the days immediately following the block. Although you should avoid vigorous exercise for a few days after the block, you can soon resume your regular activities; moderation is the watchword. 

Call Apollo Pain Management to schedule an appointment. Your doctor’s office coordinates with our office in Sun City Center, Florida, to schedule your visit. We aim to help restore your quality of life.

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