Facet Joint Medial Branch Nerve Blocks
Pain Management for the Back and Neck
Medial branch nerves are the very small nerves that allow you to feel pain from facet joints. The facet joints are small joints in the back of the spine that form connections between each vertebra. Each vertebra has a surface on four facet joints, two on the upper or superior surface and two on the lower or inferior surface of the vertebrae. (The facet joints limit how far you can twist or bend your back and neck.)
The facet joint medial nerves control the small muscles in the neck and mid or low back. They do not control any muscles or sensation in your arms or legs.
If your pain has been diagnosed as coming from the facet nerves of specific facet joints, a medial branch nerve block consisting of steroids and anesthetic medications can temporarily interrupt the pain signal being carried from a specific facet joint.
Facet Joint Medial Branch Nerve Block Treatments
To properly introduce steroids and anesthetic medications into the region of the facet joints live x-ray (fluoroscopy) is used during the procedure. The patient is first sedated in the operating room by the anesthesiologist, and with the patient lying on their abdomen, the back of the lumbar region or cervical region is prepared with the sterilizing solution and sterile drapes. After locally anesthetizing the skin, a needle is passed to the appropriate position at the facet joint of the spine. After this is accomplished, the combination of medication can be introduced into the facet joint directly or to anesthetize the nerves (medial branches) supplying sensation to the joint.
The risks of medial branch blocks are low. Risks include bleeding and infection in and around the nerves and spinal cord, inflammation of the nerves and facet joint, and elevation of blood sugars from the steroids.
For more information on Facet Joint Medial Branch Nerve Blocks or for a consultation at the Kraus Back and Neck Institute please call: