According to the National Institutes of Health, pain is the most common reason people seek medical care.

"Sometimes we can easily pinpoint what is causing a person pain, but, there are still 1 in 5 Americans who suffer from persistent pain that is not easily identifiable."

-Richard Harris, Ph.D., associate professor of anesthesiology and rheumatology at Michigan Medicine


The first step in reducing or eliminating pain is to determine exactly what's causing it.

The process begins with a complete history and physical examination. After we have a better idea of what is causing your discomfort, tests to further diagnose pain may be recommended.

One of these diagnostic tools is a medial branch block injection.

Medial Branch Block Helps Diagnose Pain

Medial branch blocks are diagnostic tests used to help verify or rule out a facet joint as the source of pain. 

Facet joints are the joints in your vertebrae that allow your spine to flex, bend, and twist.  

Medial branch refers to the nerves that carry pain signals from the spinal facet joints to the brain.

The medial branch block is placed in much the same location as a facet joint injection. This can help confirm whether the joint is the cause of your pain, and leads to neurotomy procedures for chronic pain relief.

How does a medial branch block work?

A medial branch block is an injection of chemicals that temporarily block the nerves from sending signals to the brain.

You will be asked to lay on your stomach for this procedure. Your doctor will give you a local anesthetic to numb the skin and tissue around the painful facet joint.

Once numb, your doctor will inject a contrast solution so they can see the area with a fluoroscope, which provides live x-ray images. This guides your doctor to the exact location of the joint. 

Then, they'll inject anesthetic around the small medial branch nerves. 

If your pain responds to this initial anesthetic injection, the facet joint is likely the source of your pain. Your doctor will then inject a longer lasting anesthetic to provide long-term pain relief.

If your pain does NOT respond to this initial injection, your doctor will likely test nearby facet joints to locate the correct one.

Click on the video below for more information about using medial branch blocks as a diagnostic tool.

Interested in this diagnostic procedure? Contact us for more information or to schedule an appointment

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