Medial branch nerves are small nerves in the spinal region of your back. These nerves are formed in branch like systems that communicate pain experienced in the facet joints of your spine. These nerves only communicate pain and control sensation in your back. The medial branch block procedure temporarily stops the nerves from communicating pain signals to the brain from the joints.
What Is A Medial Branch Block?
Medial branch blocks are spinal injections that block the pain signals in your medial nerves. But what are medial branch blocks (MBB’s)? What kind of back pain requires an MBB? Who is a good candidate for an MBB? Let’s first explore what medial branches are and how they affect your back pain.
Medial branch nerves are small nerves in the spinal region of your back. These nerves are formed in branch like systems that communicate pain experienced in the facet joints of your spine. These nerves only communicate pain and control sensation in your back. Medial branch nerve pain is typically experienced in your lower back, the neck, and over the bones of your mid back.
What Does A Medial Branch Block Do?
Typically, if a medial branch block is recommended to a patient, there are several indications that the facet joints are the source of the pain. Medial branch nerve block injections are used to diagnostically determine if the pain truly is caused by facet joint problems or other areas of the spine.
A physician will administer anesthetic medication, using x-ray guided fluoroscopy, near specific nerves. Sometimes the anesthetic is combined is also combined with steroid to reduce inflammation. The medication is delivered to specific nerves to test and determine the source of pain. When medial branch nerves are bathed in anesthetic the results will determine the best course of action to treat the pain experienced by a patient. The medial branch block procedure temporarily stops the nerves from communicating pain signals to the brain from the joints. If a patient experiences 50% or more relief from a medial branch block injection, then a more permanent approach will be offered (such as a radiofrequency ablation).
It is important to note that a medial branch block injections differ from facet block injections. The medial branch block procedure administers medication outside the joint, near the medial nerves and the branches.
The Benefits Of An MBB
After receiving a medial branch block, there are three standard outcomes experienced by patients. The first potential outcome is that the pain does not go away. This is an indicator that the back pain experienced is not a result of a problem within the facet joints. The second potential outcome is the pain relief is temporary, and returns within a few hours or days. This is an indicator that additional treatment is required to treat and mitigate your pain. And the third potential outcome is the pain is fully relieved for several days, weeks, or even months. Not only is relief provided but the physician can conclude the injection was placed appropriately and the specific nerves that cause pain.
The medial branch block procedure has two objectives. One objective is for the injection to operate as a diagnostic tool to determine if pain relief is possible due to the facet joints. The second objective to provide actual pain relief to the medial branch nerves.
Medial branch block injections can also help diagnose other pain conditions like sciatica. Sciatic pain can be a result of facet joint degeneration, so when the surrounding nerves are bathed, and relief is found, the MBB can be used to identify painful sciatica.
Medial branch nerve blocks can provide months long pain relief for several patients as well as determining the source of your back pain. This diagnostic information is critical when establishing a treatment plan for managing your chronic back pain.
And luckily for patients, their recovery time is incredibly fast. Most patients recover from a medial branch block procedure within an hour. The immediate relief provided by the MBB also allows patients to participate in other pain-relieving approaches, such as physical therapy. An MBB provides patients with improved mobility, allowing the pain causing nerves to become naturally insulated while the patient participates in additional injection therapies.
Is It Right For You?
Numbing the medial branch nerves can determine whether the pain is originating from the nerves, and if further nerve blocks would benefit the patient. Nerve blocks can be utilized as a form of pain management in themselves. Patients must first be evaluated by their physician or a pain specialist to determine if injection therapy is the right way to go.
Your physician will the procedure and protocol for this minimally invasive injection. You will be informed of any potential risks and weigh them against the benefits you may receive. Together, with your physician, you will be able to devise an effective treatment plan to incorporate medial branch blocks to mitigate pain.
If you find yourself struggling with back pain or facet joint pain, you may greatly benefit from medial branch block nerve injections. Please call Pain and Spine Specialists