If you are searching for long-term pain relief then a doctor may have suggested a medial branch nerve block as a treatment plan for your joint pain. One of the most commonly asked questions is does a medial branch nerve block hurt?

What are Medial Branch Nerves?

The medial branch nerves are the nerves that send out pain signals from the facet joints to the brain. A facet joint connects two or more bones. In the spine, the joints connecting each vertebra are facet joints; oftentimes, these joints are the source of back pain.

What is a Medial Branch Block?

A medial branch nerve block is a procedure where long-acting, local anesthetic medication is injected near the medial nerves that connect a facet joint. This facet joint injection is typically introduced to several areas of the spine in a singular procedure.

The nerve block is an injection that is used as a diagnostic tool. If there is significant short-term pain relief, then a secondary procedure of radiofrequency lesioning or radiofrequency ablation (RFA) may be recommended.

Medial Branch Block Procedure

When preparing for the procedure, the patient will lay facedown on their stomach. The back will be cleaned with an antiseptic and they will receive a local anesthetic to numb the area.

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Once numb, the doctor will insert a needle down into the facet joint where a contrast solution is injected. This solution allows the doctor to see the various joints and the needle clearly with a fluoroscope.

Once the doctor has confirmed the position of the needle, they will administer anesthetic and steroid medication around the medial branch nerves. This will block the pain signals that travel from the facet joint to the brain.

Most Common Side Effects

As with any procedure, there are risks and side effects with a medial branch nerve block. Listed below are the most to least common side effects.

  • Burning at Injection Site (Common)
  • Numbness at the Injection Site (Common)
  • Allergic Reactions (Rare)
  • Infections (Rare)

If an allergic reaction occurs, it is typically due to the x-ray contrast that is used. Mild infections have occurred in less than 2% of patients and severe infections in approximately 0.001% of patients.

How Long Does a Medial Branch Block Last?

Once the medial nerves have been blocked with an anesthetic most patients experience numbness in the injected area. This numbness allows for immediate relief from your pain that is intended to last anywhere from 8-24 hours but can last a couple of days.

If relief is found, it reveals to the provider that the facet joints are the sources of your pain. Relief is seen as a positive response to the block.

Does a Medial Branch Block Hurt?

The consensus is that the most uncomfortable part of the procedure is the stinging or burning feeling that comes from the injection of the numbing medication. This can feel like a slight pinch followed by a mild burning sensation.

As the anesthetic begins to work, this pain will subside as the area will be completely numb. When the nerve block is introduced the patient will feel pressure but no pain. The procedure is considered minimally invasive with little to no pain.

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If you are experiencing chronic pain, our team of highly skilled professionals may be able to help. We are committed to improving our patient’s quality of life and to helping them live pain-free. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and begin the journey of living pain-free!