The medial branch nerves are 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.

One of the most common type of treatment is known as a medial branch nerve block. As with all medical procedures, there are risks and side effects. We will discuss these below.

What is Medial Branch Nerve 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 procedure. If there is significant pain relief, then a secondary procedure may be recommended. The secondary procedure is known as radiofrequency lesioning (RFL).

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.

If the procedure is successful, the doctor may recommend using a longer-lasting anesthetic or an RFL. If the procedure is unsuccessful, the doctor may opt to test nearby facet joints to find the one with nerve damage.

Most Common Side Effects

If you are experiencing facet joint pain post-procedure, reach out to your doctor immediately. Although the side effects can be mild, it is always best to contact your doctor with questions and concerns.

Mild Side Effects

There are two common short-term side effects post-injection including:

  • Burning/Pain at the Injection Site
  • Numbness/Tingling Over the Injection Site

These symptoms are usually mild and only last from a few hours to the first few days post-procedure.

Severe Side Effects

  • Allergic Reaction to Medications
  • Excessive Bleeding
  • Injection Site or Bleeding Infection

Patients who have an active infection are not eligible for this procedure because it can cause further issues. If a patient is on blood thinners, the doctor will request that they pause the medication a few days prior to the procedure and monitor their blood pressure.

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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!