What are Lumbar Medial Branch Blocks?

Your medial branch nerves are tiny nerves feeding off from your spinal facet joints. These medial branch nerves perform a vital role: carrying pain signals between your facet joints and your brain.

Medial branch blocks are regularly used as a twin-pronged approach to diagnostics and treatment. Indeed, lumbar medial branch blocks are predominantly diagnostic. If you experience adequate pain relief, you could be a viable fit for a medial branch block.

So what is this and why should you care?

What is a Medial Branch Block?

A medial branch block occurs when a powerful local anesthetic is injected on your medial branch nerves. These nerves supply your facet joints. These facet joints, also called zygapophysial joints, form part of the spine’s bony framework. The joints take the form of tiny bony projections emanating from the vertebra above or below the joint.

Some chronic and acute conditions cause these facet joints to become inflamed. With the lumbar facet joints, there’s a common pattern of pain. This pain starts as a dull ache in the lower back. It then radiates across and arches down toward your upper thighs and your buttocks. The pain usually worsens when you stand or try bending back.

Medial branch blocks, then, are used to establish whether your comes from your facet joints and to determine whether or not you would be suitable for radiofrequency neurotomy. This is a highly effective form of long-term pain relief.

The nuances of radiofrequency neurotomy are outside the scope of today’s quick glimpse at medial branch blocks.

How, then, do these injections into the facet joints take place?

How Is This Procedure Performed?

You’ll be asked to lie on your stomach if you’re having injections into your back.

As the procedure unfolds, you’ll have your oxygen levels and blood pressure monitored.

In terms of personnel, expect the doctor and nurse in attendance at all times along with the X-ray technician.

After cleaning the skin on your back with an antiseptic solution, the injection takes place…

Tiny needles are positioned all along the bony waypoints marking out the placement of your medial branch nerves. The doctor will inject roughly 0.3ml along each nerve.

So, while the science behind it might be complex, the procedure itself is straightforward.

Is it safe, though?

The Risks and Side Effects of Medial Branch Blocks

You can expect minimal risks with this procedure, risks in line with any similar procedure with needle placement involved.

While rare, you could experience the following side effects:

  • Allergic reaction
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain at the injection site

To reiterate, the vast majority of patients will suffer no problems at all with this procedure.

Does The Procedure Take a Long Time?

No, it doesn’t.

The injection itself takes only a minute or two.

Overall, you’ll need an hour or so for the procedure. This includes the time you’ll need for discussion with your doctor, signing the consent documents and observation afterwards by the recovery room nurse.

Do Lumbar Medial Branch Block Injections Hurt?

Just like any procedure when local anesthetic is injected through a tiny needle, you can expect to feel a little pinch followed by a minor burning sensation. Once the injection takes effect, the skin numbs and the procedure needle feels like little more than slight pressure at the site of the injection.

Final Thoughts

If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you need to arrange an appointment, you can schedule a visit online. You can also call us directly on 480-550-9393.