Many spinal conditions that affect our facet joints, or the joints that connect the vertebrae of our spine, can impinge upon the nerves that surround our spine. Medial branch nerve blocks are used to determine whether or not the nerves near specific facet joints are your source of pain. Medial branch nerves are nerves located in the facet joints and send pain signals to the brain if there is inflammation in this region. This inflammation can be caused by trauma to one’s back from something like a car accident or a fall, and conditions like spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease or arthritis in the spine.
How is it done?
Your pain management physician numbs the area with a local anesthetic such as lidocaine while you lay in a comfortable face down position. He carefully directs a small needle over the branch nerves while releasing contrast dye. This is called fluoroscopy guidance and your physician will use this to make sure he is in the correct spot by covering the desired nerve in a colored dye. Once you are numb in the area, your doctor inserts a thin needle very close to the medial branch nerve and releases the corticosteroid.
What does it actually do?
The corticosteroid is a long term numbing medication. A few days after the procedure, the corticosteroid will take effect, blocking pain signals released by that specific nerve to the brain. If this nerve is indeed your source of pain you should feel relief within just a few days. The effects may last for extended periods of time, perhaps six months, though it varies by the individual. With the help of this diagnosis, you and your pain management specialist can discuss which therapies to use to correct pain in the future.
Dr. Nickhil Gupta is an expert in interventional pain management at NY Bone & Joint Specialists. Our experienced team of physiatrists and orthopedic doctors are among the very best in New York City and New Jersey. Our practice has one goal: a better quality of life for our patients.