Lumbar Medial Branch Block

Medial Branch Block being performed in the lumbar spine.

Low back pain can steal your mobility, destroy your quality of life, and keep you from doing the things you love most. Unfortunately, it’s an extremely common condition, affecting up to 80% of the population at some point in their lives.

That’s why low back pain is also one of the most common reasons for doctor’s visits across the country.

The problem is that while many acute causes of low back pain will resolve with conservative treatment like rest and ice or hot packs, far too many patients will move from acute to chronic low back pain and require additional care to find relief.

Yet, in order to actually find that relief from low back pain, your doctor must accurately diagnose the source of your pain and that is exactly where a lumbar medial branch block comes in.

If you haven’t heard of this procedure, don’t worry…

We’ve put together all of the facts you need to know about lumbar 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 Lumbar Medial Branch Block and How Can It Help Me?

During a lumbar medial branch block, your pain intervention specialist will deliver a long-acting local anesthetic to the medial branch nerves that supply the facet joints in your low back – small bony protrusions from your vertebra that meet with the vertebra above.

These facet joints are a common source of low back pain, since they can become inflamed for a multitude of reasons. Once they are inflamed, you can experience radiating pain across your low back and into your buttocks and upper thigs.

Generally, this pain will be worse with movement, standing, or bending backward.

The purpose of the procedure is to determine whether your low back pain is coming from your facet joints based on whether or not the anesthetic provides relief from your pain, and how long the 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 Lumbar Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation. This procedure uses radio waves to destroy the nerve fibers that carry pain signals from your facet joints to your brain and can provide long-lasting relief.

What Can I Expect During the Procedure?

Prior to your lumbar medial branch block, an IV will be started so that you can receive medications to relax you and keep you comfortable. During the procedure, your doctor will have you lie on your stomach. The skin of your low back will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution and x-ray guidance will be used to place very small needle along the bony landmarks that mark the location of your medial branch nerves. Your doctor will then inject a small volume of anesthetic along each nerve.

What Happens After the Procedure?

Following your lumbar medial branch block, you will be moved to a recovery area where you will rest and be monitored for a short time, usually around 30 minutes. At discharge, you will need someone to drive you home.

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

What Are the Results?

Although some patients may experience longer lasting relief than others, patients typically find that the results of a lumbar medial branch block last from a few hours to a few days if their low back pain is facet joint related.

In this case, a Lumbar Radiofrequency Ablation is the next step in your journey to overcoming your low back pain.