Medial branch blocks and facet injections are common treatment options for patients who experience back pain, neck pain and headaches. These simple injections are administered around facet joints to reduce inflammation and irritation from arthritis pain. The facet joints are located along the spine and connect each vertebra to the next. These joints help support the spine by providing stability and range of motion. They can become painful due to arthritis of the spine, a mechanical injury, or poor posture.
A medial branch block is a minimally invasive procedure where a small dose of local anesthetic is placed next to the facet joint. This helps identify which facet joint is involved, and result in a reduction in pain, increase in function and mobility, and improved quality of life.
If you’re experiencing neck pain, back pain or headaches, please contact our office at 929-363-0303 or book your appointment online today.
What Is Facet Joint Arthritis
Arthritis is classified as painful inflammation and stiffness in the joints. There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and many others. Each type causes pain in a different way.
Like other joints in the body, facet joints are covered by cartilage that allows the bones to move next to each other smoothly without friction. When these areas are inflamed, the cartilage wears down which causes pain. Arthritis of the facet joints carries multiple names for the same condition, including facet joint arthritis, facet joint arthropathy, and spondylosis.
The Medial Branch Block Procedure
A Medial Branch Block is a minimally invasive office based procedure. It typically takes 10 minutes, and there is no downtime after. It can be done with local anesthesia, or intravenous medication for comfort if desired. During a medial branch block, a small needle is inserted next to the involved facet joint with X-ray guidance (fluoroscopy). After proper placement of the needle is confirmed, a local anesthetic is injected through the needle. This will anesthetize the facet joint and block the pain pathway. This will help identify which facet joint is affected, and results in reduction of pain, increase in function and improved quality of life. Some patients may feel better right away. Patients may return to work the same day or next day.
How Medial Branch Blocks Work
The medial branch block interrupts signals from the the medial branch nerve, which communicates with the facets joints. The anesthetic agent interrupts the pain signal, reduces inflammation, and numbs the pain temporarily. The purpose of this procedure is to determine if the pain you are experiencing is caused by the inflammation of the facet joint. If this method leads to a short-term relief of pain of at least 70-80%*, one might be considered an ideal candidate for radiofrequency ablation procedure, which would provide long-lasting pain relief.
Medial Branch Blocks for Migraine (Cervicogenic Headache)
In younger people, chronic headaches frequently occur secondary to disorders of the cervical spine. These are not true migraines, as general migraine treatments will not generally abort the headaches. An upper cervical facet injection can help diagnose and treat the source of the headaches. If you’ve been diagnosed with having chronic migraines and treatment isn’t working, it is possible that the migraine is coming from the cervical spine. If a facet injection breaks the pain cycle, the cause of the migraine is likely cervicogenic. Once the diagnosis is established, treatment is usually effective at greatly decreasing the duration and intensity of migraines, and improving quality of life.
Typical Benefits Of Medial Branch Blocks
- Stops the transmission of pain signals.
- Targets the medial branch nerves which supply the facet joints.
- Outpatient procedure performed in the office and only takes around 10 minutes.
- A diagnostic tool that identifies patients who are candidates for radiofrequency ablation of the medial branch nerve.
If you are suffering from chronic or acute pain, please contact us at 929-363-0303 or book your appointment online and let’s talk about a pain management treatment plan that is right for you.