Cervical Medial Branch Block

Cervical Medial Branch Block being performed on a patient.

After a long day on the computer, handling call after call, or working in the garden, a stiff, aching neck can sneak up on you. As long as your pain goes away, normal life can resume.

However, many people experience long-term and even severe neck pain that can limit their motion, harm their quality of life, and keep them from doing the things they love.

If this describes you, a cervical medial branch block could be the answer to determining the source of your neck pain and getting the treatment you need to finally achieve relief.

We’ve put together all of the facts you need to know about cervical medial branch blocks and how your pain management specialist can use the procedure to find the cause behind your pain to help you take back your life.

What Is A Cervical Medial Branch Block and How Can It Help Me?

Your neck pain could be coming from the facet joints in your cervical spine. These small bony protrusions from your vertebra that meet with the vertebra above are supplied by the medial branch nerves of your spinal cord, which are responsible for sending pain signals to your brain.

Once inflamed, your facet joints can irritate these nerves and set off a constant pain cascade. This can cause achiness in your neck, radiating pain that sweeps across your neck and shoulders, and symptoms that worsen every time you turn your head from side to side or look up.

In a cervical medial branch block, your pain intervention specialist will deliver a long-acting local anesthetic to these medial branch nerves that supply your facets.

The purpose of the procedure is to determine whether your neck and shoulder pain is due to your facet joints based on whether or not the anesthetic provides relief from your pain, and how long this relief lasts.

If you do experience a lasting lessening of your pain, the block may be repeated.

If you experience short-term, positive benefits, your doctor may then recommend a second procedure known as a Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation. This procedure uses radio waves to destroy the nerve fibers that carry the pain signals from your facet joints to your brain and can provide long-lasting relief.

What Can I Expect During the Procedure?

To prepare you for your cervical medial branch block, an IV will be started. This allows you to receive medications to relax you and keep you comfortable.

During the procedure, your doctor will have you lie on your side and the skin of your neck will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. Your pain physician will then use x-ray guidance to place very small needle along the bony landmarks that mark the location of your medial branch nerves and inject anesthetic along each nerve.

What Happens After the Procedure?

After your cervical medial branch block, you can expect to be transferred to a recovery area where you will rest and be monitored for a short time, usually about 30 minutes. It is important that you have someone to drive you home, since your doctor will be unable to perform the procedure if you don’t have a driver with you.

Although you can take a shower, you should not soak the area in a bath for 48 hours. It’s also important to avoid strenuous activity for the rest of the day.

What Are the Results?

The relief you experience will vary based on a number of factors, including whether or not your facet joints are the source of your neck pain. Although you may experience longer lasting relief, typically a cervical medial branch block will provide relief for few hours to a few days.

In this case, a Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation is the next step in your journey to overcoming your neck pain.