When it comes to pain management, there are many approaches to take. One that works for many is the facet block procedure, also known as the medial branch block, or less formally, as a nerve block.
When a patient is experiencing spinal pain, it can be difficult to isolate where the pain is originating from. Facet joints, which run the length of the neck and spine and are located where the vertebra slightly overlap, are often the source of spinal pain, but due to referred pain, it can be difficult to isolate which one or ones are the problem.
A medial branch block can be used to eliminate sensation from a specific facet joint (or multiple joints) in order to determine which is causing pain. It can also be used as a form of pain management.
How Facet Blocks Are Performed
First, we apply a local anesthetic. Then, a needle is inserted into the area of the facet joint or joints being targeted. This part of the process is observed on a fluoroscope, ensuring the doctor is able to place the block correctly. Once the needle is in the right position, the doctor injects the joint with anesthetic and cortisone.
Overall, the procedure is quick and low stress. However, for patients who experience anxiety over spinal procedures, sedation is an option. The length of the procedure will vary based on how many joints are being nerve blocked. However, it is typically less than 30 minutes.
Candidates for Facet Blocks
Not all forms of back pain are suited to facet block treatment. If you have neck pain, mid-back, or lower back pain, as well as leg pain, that is caused by an issue with the facet joints, you might benefit from this procedure, either as a diagnostic or as treatment for inflammation, irritation, or arthritis of the facet joints.
Recovery From Facet Blocks
There is a very brief recovery period after a facet block. Most patients are able to get up immediately once it is done and start walking around. However, we will monitor you for a brief period before clearing you to return home or head to work.
Facet Block Results
Assuming that the targeted facet joint or joints is the pain source, you’ll enjoy instant relief. This can last for anywhere from several hours to several months. If it does not last long enough for you, radiofrequency lesioning may be needed.