Cervical medial branch blocks are diagnostic injections used patients who suffer from chronic neck, upper back, shoulder, and headache pain. These injections contain an anesthetic that is applied to the medial branch nerves located near the facet joints of the cervical spine. When the facet joints become inflamed, the nearby medial branch nerves send pain signals that present as achiness and radiating pain. Anesthetic applied to the affected area can provide significant temporary pain relief, restoring joint mobility and quality of life.
that a double-blind study published by the National Institutes of Health found that cervical medial branch blocks were highly effective for managing chronic neck pain related to the facet joints? Among 60 patients studied, significant pain relief greater than or equal to 50 percent was found at 3, 6, and 12 months after the initial injection.
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. It is impossible to know for sure whether one of these injections will be right for you, and often medial branch blocks are used as diagnostic tools to determine whether the pain is the result of facet joint inflammation or some other cause. The results obtained after an initial injection are usually an indication of whether additional medial branch blocks or radiofrequency nerve ablation could be beneficial.
Cervical medial branch blocks are outpatient procedures that usually take less than a half hour to complete from start to finish. You will be injected with local anesthetic at the treatment site and may also be placed under light sedation for a more comfortable and relaxed experience. A very fine needle will be placed into the cervical spine under x-ray guidance. A small amount of anesthetic is injected near each medial branch nerve.
You’ll be kept at your doctor’s office for observation for approximately 20 to 30 minutes after your injection is completed. Your doctor will release you to go home, though you’ll need to rest for the remainder of the day. Keep a pain diary can to track your experience and determine the efficacy of the injection. If your pain disappears after the injection, know that it is temporary and will only last hours or days. However, relief from a medial branch block can mean that you will respond well to radiofrequency ablation, which will offer relief that is long-term.