Treating Your Chronic Joint Pain

Joints connect the bones of the body and are critical for movement. With age, chronic joint pain can develop in the knees, shoulders, hip, wrist, and almost anywhere in the body. However, the facet joints in the spine can be particularly irritating. Chronic back pain may need specialized treatment, such as a medial branch block to help with the pain.

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Vertebrae, facet joints, and medial branch nerves

The spinal column contains 33 interlocking bones called the vertebrae. These bones are connected by facet joints, which allow mobility in the spine. Medial branch nerves are the tiny nerves along the facet joints, and they transmit pain signals from the facet joints to the brain.

How a medial branch block provides pain relief

The medial branch block is primarily a diagnostic procedure. The doctor injects an anesthetic near medial nerves connecting a particular facet joint. If the nerves cause pain, there should be relief within the next 4-6 hours afterward. Pain relief from the medial branch block lasts only 8-12 hours. If the pain lessened by at least 80%, the doctor will recommend radiofrequency ablation for more extended pain relief.

Performing your branch block

The medial branch block is a quick outpatient procedure that takes just a few minutes. Medial branch blocks happen at a doctor’s office or radiology center. First, a nurse cleans an area of the back or neck with an aseptic solution. Then, using fluoroscopy, your doctor will locate the medial branch nerves of the painful joint. A small needle will be inserted and directed to the identified medial branch nerve. Once the hand is accurately positioned, the local anesthetic numbs the area and repeats as needed.

What are the risks?

Generally, a medial branch block is a low-risk procedure. However, as with all other surgeries, there remains the possibility of experiencing general adverse reactions such as bleeding, infection, nerve damage, allergic reaction to medications, and soreness. The doctor or medical team will outline all risks and steps to relieve these issues.

What happens after your block?

After surgery, patients will be asked to record pain relief within 24 hours. For a more accurate evaluation, doctors recommend that patients do painful activities before the procedure. The review ends once the effect of the anesthetic wears off after 8-12 hours, a follow-up visit helps evaluate the results and determine the next steps. The patient can benefit from physical therapy, radiofrequency ablation, or surgery.

Commit To A Medial Branch Block

A medial branch block can effectively numb your nerves and provide pain
relief. However, patients must remember important that the effects are only temporary. This procedure is primarily diagnostic but can help with a holistic approach to joint pain relief. If a doctor or surgeon suggests a branch block, follow the instructions and take action immediately.

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