Getting to the Root of Back Pain with Medial Branch Blocks
Back pain affects as much as 80% of the adult population. From simple issues to more complex concerns, back pain is an unfortunately common ailment that drives adults to seek relief. Because of the size and complex nature of the back, determining the source of back pain can be difficult. Muscle sprains and aches, bone and joint issues, and more can all lead to the onset of back pain.
The Cause of Back Pain
The cause of back pain is often a mystery. Sleeping in an unusual position, degenerative joint disorders, and trauma to the spine can all lead to back pain. Back pain sources can frequently be separated into two categories: common and uncommon causes.
Injury, heavy lifting, medical conditions, and degenerative disorders are the most common causes of back pain. Although getting to the root of the pain can be difficult, common causes often respond to treatment more easily than uncommon (and complicated) causes.
Congenital disorders are among the less common causes of back pain, and they include disorders such as spina bifida. These causes are also among the more difficult conditions to diagnose and treat.
Back pain can also be due to a number of complementary factors. Comorbid conditions and interweaving states can lead to back pain or exacerbate existing pain. If someone has a joint disorder, for instance, and continually exhibits poor posture, they are more likely to experience significant back pain than those with joint disorders who maintain proper posture.
Finding a Diagnosis with Medial Branch Blocks
Diagnosing back pain is the first and most important step in treatment. Over-the-counter pain medication (and even prescription pain medication) may dull pain sensations, but they do not address pain causes. Medial branch blocks can address pain relief and pain management simultaneously.
What Is a Medial Branch Block?
A medial branch block (also called a facet joint injection) is a minimally invasive, diagnostic procedure that blocks the medial nerves in order to identify the source of back pain. During the procedure, a health professional will apply a local anesthetic, then place a larger needle into an area of the back corresponding to medial branch nerves, the small nerves responsible for many instances of back and joint pain.
How It Helps
Medial branch blocks are useful because they block the nerves that carry pain signals from the facet joints to the brain. These nerves are related to the facet joints. If pain levels recede or diminish, the pain is clearly related to the facet joints at that level of the spine. If pain persists, pain specialists can begin looking elsewhere.
What to Expect
During this particular pain relief procedure, you can expect to feel some discomfort at the injection site only for a short time. Your pain will usually subside within a few hours and last for a day or two. If the procedure successfully locates the source of your pain, you will be a candidate for radiofrequency ablation which can provide pain relief for 6 months to over one year. If not, you can expect to receive additional diagnostic tests to determine the source of your pain.
What Is the Next Step After a Medial Branch Block?
The procedure itself is for diagnostic purposes only and is not the final treatment. Depending on the outcome of the procedure, the patient will be scheduled for the next steps of their treatment plan. The procedure is a diagnostic tool, which is then used to formulate additional injection or physical therapy services.
Treatment After Diagnosis
Treatment after the diagnostic test will depend on the results of the service. If pain diminishes, the patient will undergo radiofrequency ablation (RFA) which will provide long-term pain relief. Steroids, physical therapy, and more can help offer relief from back pain. People may experience relief when using multiple therapies to target the cause of the pain while receiving relief.
Can Medial Branch Block Make Pain Worse?
Medial branch blocks are not known to make pain worse. Should pain increase, it is likely related to muscle soreness from the needle. However, if pain is severe, the patient should follow up with their doctor immediately. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is vital, however, to seek out professional advice if the pain grows worse or persists.
How Successful Are Medial Branch Blocks?
Medial branch blocks effectively block the nerves’ signals to the brain. Provided that the pain originates in the facet joints and medial nerves, the procedure should prove successful. The duration of pain relief is only for a few days, but is crucial in correctly identifying the cause of the patient’s pain so they can be placed on the proper treatment plan. If they are a candidate for RFA, they can expect pain relief for 6 months to over one year.
Back Pain Management in Charlotte, NC
Back pain is extremely difficult to live with. Many people who live with back pain feel overwhelmed and desperate for relief. Medial branch blocks can help diagnose persistent back pain in the lower back, thoracic spine, and neck. Because treatment relies heavily upon finding the source of the pain, medial branch blocks can play a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment process.
If you are in need of back pain relief in Charlotte, NC, schedule an appointment with our office. Back pain can significantly diminish quality of life. Learn how to get to the root of your back pain today.