Cervical medial branch blocks are diagnostic injections indicated for patients who suffer from chronic neck, upper back, shoulder, and headache pain that is believed to be caused by inflammation in the facet joints on the sides of the cervical spine. When these facet joints become inflamed, the nearby medial branch nerves send pain signals that present as achiness and pain. The pain experienced often radiates to the back of the head, along neck, or to the shoulders. During this procedure, an injection containing an anesthetic is applied to the medial branch nerves located near the facet joints in the cervical spine. Anesthetic applied to the affected area can provide significant short pain relief, restoring joint mobility and quality of life. More importantly, they provide diagnostic information to identify the sources of your pain. If our patients experience significant short-term relief following a medial branch block, they may be candidates for a radiofrequency ablation procedure which may provide more significant long-term relief.
A radiofrequency ablation procedure is much like a medial branch block procedure. However, it involves the use of a special type of needle that allows the physician to make small, focal lesions to disrupt the small medial branch nerves from transmitting the pain, providing you with long-term relief of your symptoms. It is typically performed after you have reported significant short-term pain relief following two diagnostic medial branch block procedures which will help ensure that you’d benefit from a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Am I a candidate for a cervical medial branch block?
If you have chronic pain that seems to radiate across the upper back or neck, perhaps worsening when you move your neck to the side or up and down, you may be a candidate for a cervical medial branch block. Medial branch blocks are used as diagnostic tools to determine whether the pain is the result of facet joint inflammation or perhaps another condition. The results obtained after an initial injection are usually an indication of whether additional medial branch blocks or radiofrequency nerve ablation could be beneficial.
What should I expect during a cervical medial branch block treatment?
Cervical medial branch blocks are outpatient procedures that usually take less than 30 minutes to complete from start to finish. The procedure involves several small injections with the use of x-ray guidance and local anesthetic at the treatment site. Once the needles are in place, a small amount of anesthetic is injected near the anatomical location of each medial branch nerve being targeted.
What types of results can I expect from my medial branch block?
You’ll be kept at your doctor’s office for observation for a short period of time after your injection is completed. After you leave the office, we typically encourage you to go about your usual daily activities to see if the procedure provided you with significant relief of your pain. We will give you an hourly pain diary to track your experience and discuss the results a few days after your procedure. It’s normal to only experience short term relief of your symptoms given that the anesthetic typically wears off after several hours. However, if your pain significantly improves immediately after the procedure, you may respond well to a radiofrequency ablation procedure which may provide significant long term pain relief.