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Medial Branch Block

Centers for Pain Control and Vein Care

Pain Management Physicians & Vein Specialists located across Northwest Indiana

If you develop chronic pain and stiffness in your back or neck due to spinal arthritis, a medial branch block is the first step toward treatment that can give you long-lasting pain relief. The experienced physicians at Centers for Pain Control and Vein Care in Hobart, LaPorte, Merrillville, Munster, and Valparaiso, Indiana, have helped many patients overcome the symptoms of spinal arthritis, starting with a diagnostic medial branch block to identify the arthritic vertebra and the nerve causing your pain. If you need help with ongoing back or neck pain, call the nearest office or schedule an appointment online.

Medial Branch Block Q & A

What is a medial branch block?

Each vertebra in your spine has a pair of medial branch nerves that carry pain messages from the facet joints to your brain. A diagnostic medial branch block is an injection containing a local anesthetic that’s placed at a specifically targeted medial branch nerve.

Your provider at Centers for Pain Control and Vein Care may perform a lumbar, thoracic, or cervical medial branch block, depending on the location of your pain. If your pain diminishes following the injection, it verifies that your symptoms originate in the facet joint served by the targeted nerve.

Why might I need a medial branch block?

Facet joints connect the vertebrae together, where they sustain daily movement that wears down the cartilage covering the bones. As the cartilage degenerates, you develop facet joint arthritis and symptoms such as:

  • Stiffness and limited spinal movement
  • Pain in your back or neck (based on the location of the arthritic joint)
  • Pain that spreads to your buttocks or the back of your skull
  • Pain that’s worse when you twist, bend, or sit for a long time

When a nerve is pinched, you may experience numbness or pain and tingling that radiate down your legs or arms.

What happens during a medial branch block?

During the procedure, your provider uses real-time X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy) to see your spine and guide the needle to the targeted medial nerve. Once the needle is in place, the anesthetic is injected.

If the medial nerve is carrying pain signals from the facet joint, your pain diminishes nearly immediately. Your pain relief may last several hours, but it’s only temporary.

What treatment might I receive after a medial branch block?

Following a successful diagnostic medial branch block, you may receive one of the following treatments:

Therapeutic medial branch block

Like the diagnostic injection, this is placed outside the joint at the nerve. It contains an anesthetic and a corticosteroid to reduce painful nerve inflammation.

Facet joint injection

This injection also contains a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid, but it’s placed inside the joint to diminish synovial inflammation.

Radiofrequency ablation

Your provider uses a needle that sends out radiofrequency energy to create a small wound on the targeted medial nerve. The wound then blocks nerve signals to your brain, providing pain relief that can last nine months or longer. 

If you need relief from the pain of spinal arthritis, call Centers for Pain Control and Vein Care, or schedule an appointment online to discuss a medial branch block.