The joints in your spine are called facet joints. These joints are located on the left and right side of each vertebra, interlocking with the vertebra above and below like hinges that allow spinal movement. Each facet joint contains small nerves that are responsible for transmitting pain signals directly to the joint. These nerves are called medial branch nerves, and if there is any inflammation within a facet joint, the medial branch nerves typically will signal pain. One of the ways your medical professional can determine if these nerves are the cause of your neck pain or back pain is through the use of a certain type of injection called medial branch nerve blocks.
What is a medial branch nerve block?
Medial branch nerve blocks seek to determine if the nerves in question are the root cause of your pain by temporarily interrupting the pain signals carried by these nerves. By injecting a small amount of anesthetic into the nerves and recording the subsequent pain relief – or lack thereof – your physician can more accurately assess what is causing your pain.
How can this injection help me?
Medial branch nerve blocks can potentially offer you pain relief after the procedure is completed, often lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days. However, if the pain relief you experience is significant enough, it means the physician has accurately targeted the correct nerves causing your pain – and a follow-up procedure can potentially offer longer-lasting pain relief. This secondary procedure, called a radiofrequency neurotomy, is another injection treatment that creates a heat lesion on the appropriate nerves to interrupt the pain signals sent to the brain. This can possibly provide pain relief for up to 14 months, or even longer.
A more permanent solution
Austin Midtown Ambulatory Spinal Center performs an outpatient procedure called facet thermal ablation, during which a surgeon uses a laser to clean the facet joint and permanently deaden the medial branch nerve, similar to how an oral nerve is deadened during a root canal. This procedure is performed through a small incision and requires minimal recovery time.§ Contact Austin Midtown Ambulatory Spinal Center today to learn more about facet thermal ablation and our other minimally invasive outpatient procedures that can be performed to treat a variety of spinal conditions – such as bone spurs, bulging discs or herniated discs, sciatica and other degenerative spine diseases. We can help you find relief from neck and back pain.