Treating Joint Pain The Right Way
The body has over 200 joints that help with movement and flexibility. With all that movement comes the possibility of joint pain. Most joints have soft cartilage and synovial fluid that helps with shock absorption. Should this cartilage wear away for some reason, the results could be painful. In some cases, the pain can last so long that medical treatment is the only option. Within a doctor’s toolkit are a medial branch block and radiofrequency ablation. These 2 procedures help with pain management in different ways.
Reasons for MBB and RFA
If a doctor is considering a medial branch block or radiofrequency ablation, the joint pain has not responded well to conservative treatment. Most cases are due to spondylosis which is osteoarthritis of the spine. Osteoarthritis can cause facet joints to rub on each other and also press on surrounding nerves. Major joints like the hip, knee, shoulder, and neck can also benefit from these treatments. Medial branch block or radiofrequency ablation means improved pain relief, delayed surgery, and a better quality of life.
Block inflammation with MBB
A medial branch block (MBB) is a minimally invasive procedure focused on relieving pain. The method targets the facet joints and medial branch nerves of the spine explicitly. The medial branch nerves are a group of nerves around the facet joints. If these nerves become inflamed in any way, the result can be painful. A medial branch block is an injection of powerful anesthetic into the space to reduce inflammation. In some cases, the doctor injects both anesthetic and steroid for more extended relief.
Ready for treatment?
The procedure takes less than 30 minutes and is typically performed by a radiologist, anesthesiologist, or surgeon. The patient will lie face down on the operating table and receive a local anesthetic to numb the injection site. The doctor uses fluoroscopy, a special kind of x-ray that helps the doctor see the location of the needle on a monitor. From there, the specialist guides the needle to the appropriate joint and administers the medication. The patient can leave shortly after the procedure and should experience relief within a few days. Some doctors use an MBB to gauge if a patient will benefit from Radiofrequency Ablation.
Burning away your pain
Radiofrequency Ablation or RFA is another effective pain management technique. The goal is to use radio waves to ablate or burn the nerve endings near the painful joint. Nerve endings send pain signals to the brain. By removing the communication between the two, the symptoms of joint pain improve significantly. An RFA follows the same process as a medial branch block. The doctor uses fluoroscopy to direct a needle to medial branch nerves. A radiofrequency wave is then passed through the needle, destroying the nerve ends near the joint. Patients should feel the full effects of RFA 10 to 14 days after treatment. Over 1 to 2 years, the nerve ends regenerate, so patients should feel relief until then.
What’s the difference?
Pain reduction is the goal of both procedures. Both also use fluoroscopy to access the joint and apply the treatment. However, there are some key differences. A medial branch block uses medication to numb the joint capsule. RFA, on the other hand, destroys the nerve endings completely. Destroying the nerve endings extends the effectiveness of the procedure for 1 year or more. MBB can last 2-3 months, which means a patient can get multiple treatments yearly. RFA can also help other joints in the body, but MBB is limited to the facet joints. The doctor will choose the right one, or in some cases, both procedures to help with the pain.
Get help for your joint pain today
Both treatments are effective ways of treating spinal joint pain. The significant difference is numbing versus destroying the nerve ends completely. In the case of osteoarthritis in other joints, radiofrequency ablation may help. Studies show that the procedures have up to an 87% success rate after 1 year. Knowing the difference also helps patients choose the most suitable procedure. Discuss the pros and cons of both treatments with a doctor and take action for long-term pain relief.