Nerve Blocks And Back Pain
Nerve blocks are used to treat chronic or severe pain. During the procedure, a surgeon will cut off communication between specific nerves and the brain. Pain signals will no longer reach the brain, giving the patient both relief and increased freedom of movement. Medial branch blocks help physicians identify sources of back pain.
What is a nerve block?
A nerve block is used to stop the transmission of pain signals from an area of the body to the brain. Nerve blocks can be non-surgical or surgical. During non-surgical nerve blocks, medication is injected into the bundle of nerves and the pain typically subsides right away. The nerve blocks are temporary and last between 8-36 hours. Surgical nerve blocks are performed when chronic pain is present and no other treatment methods have worked. The surgeon will use electric currents, alcohol, cryogenic freezing, or a medical device to destroy the nerves. The destruction of the nerves is called ablation. Not all surgical nerve blocks are permanent, and the nerve will often regrow.
How do medial branch blocks get rid of pain?
Facet joints are the joints between each vertebra, which allow for flexibility and movement. Medial nerves feed out from facet joints and carry pain signals from the spine to the brain. Medial branch blocks are put in place to stop the transmission of pain signals. The patient will still have the same level of mobility as before the procedure; medial nerves do not control major muscle groups or movement in the arms and legs. Medial branch blocks are minimally invasive, and complications are rare.
What to expect during the procedure.
The procedure is performed in an outpatient facility and lasts between 15-30 minutes. Full sedation is typically not needed. A local anesthetic will be injected into the area, followed by a small amount of contrast dye. The dye allows the physician to ensure the numbing medicine reaches the targeted nerve area. Each facet has two medial nerves; therefore, the patient will likely receive two shots of local anesthetic for every facet joint in question. After the procedure, the patient will rest for approximately 20 minutes before undergoing a small pain test. During the test, the physician will have the patient perform a series of movements that would typically cause pain. If there is no pain, the correct medical nerve has been identified and blocked.
Getting rid of back pain
Nerve blocks are used as both therapy and treatment for pain management. The blocks work by cutting off pain signals between the brain and an area of the body. Each facet of the spine has two medial nerves. Medial branch blocks work by temporarily numbing the nerves. The doctor is then able to identify the area of the spine requiring treatment.