Blocking Back Pain
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic back pain. Some cases are simple sprains and strains. Others are due to specific conditions of the spine that cause intense nerve pain. Nerve pain can originate from the medial branch nerves. These nerves send pain signals to the brain whenever there is an issue in the spine’s facet joints. A surgeon can recommend a medial branch nerve block with several benefits.
1. A fast, minimally invasive procedure
A medial branch nerve block is an effective form of pain management. The procedure can be performed by a neurologist, surgeon, or anesthesiologist. The patient lies face down on an operating table. The medical professional will use an x-ray technique called fluoroscopy. Fluoroscopy allows the doctor to target the painful area easily. Once the needle is in place, an anesthetic and steroid are administered. The procedure takes less than an hour and requires no incisions or recovery time.
2. Immediate pain relief
The medication stops the medial nerves from communicating with the brain. In some cases, the pain relief can be immediate. Some patients experience a 50% reduction in pain a few hours after the procedure. However, the immediate relief signals an ongoing issue with the nerves and facet joints. The doctor can then suggest a long-term solution like radiofrequency ablation (RFA).
3. Get to the root cause
A medial branch block has a significant secondary function. This procedure is an excellent diagnostic tool. If the patient feels immediate pain relief, the doctor can determine an issue with the facet joints. The nerve block can also confirm conditions like sciatica. Sometimes there is no pain relief or the pain returns in a few days. If this happens, the medical team can move on to other treatments. The medical team can take proper action with this additional information, including surgery.
4. Delay or prevent surgery
Surgeons perform thousands of spinal surgeries every year. However, surgery is usually a last resort once all other non-surgical procedures fail. Some people want to avoid surgery. A nerve block can provide long-term relief, delaying surgery in the process. In some cases, patients can avoid surgery altogether.
Less pain, more living
Back pain caused by medial nerves is debilitating. Due to pain, many people have difficulties working, enjoying sports, and social activities. Usually, doctors will recommend pain medication, gentle exercises, and lots of rest. A nerve block is the next step in the treatment process. As both a diagnostic and pain management tool, nerve blocks can give patients a new lease on life.