Medial branch blocks are injections of numbing medicine that bathes the medial branch nerves. These nerves are attached to the facet joints of the spine. Disease or injury of these joints can cause pain in the medial branch nerves. This pain may travel through the neck, shoulders, upper back and head. A medial branch block can help your physician find the source of your pain. It may also provide temporary pain relief.
To begin, your doctor injects local anesthetic. This numbs your skin and tissue around the areas to be injected.
Inserting the needle
Next, your doctor guides a thin needle through the numbed tissue. A video x-ray device called a “fluoroscope” helps find your medial branch nerves. Contrast dye is injected to make sure the needle is in the right place.
The doctor injects numbing medicine onto the nerves. The medicine temporarily numbs the nerves. If this area is the source of your pain, you’ll feel immediate pain relief. More than one level of the spine may need to be injected.
End of procedure
When the procedure is finished, you’ll be watched for a brief time. Then you can go home. You may feel pain relief for the next few hours. You may be asked to keep track of your pain level as the medicine wears off. If the block was successful, your doctor can recommend a procedure to provide long-lasting relief.