Back Pain: Can a Medial Branch Block Help?

I have suffered with severe back pain for over 30 years. Unfortunately, my adventures with back pain started when I was 16 rather than when I reached middle age (whatever age that might be in your mind lol). Just like most of you, the pain started as an achy back after even

 

mild exertion, if I’m being honest. So as to not bore you with my whole sob story, let’s just hit the highlights by saying it moved on to chronic severe back pain over the course of 15 years  to where I am left bed-ridden for a week or more at a time when it flares up. It is so bad that I even need my husband to come home on his lunch break to help get me to the toilet because I can’t get myself out of the bed. Not quite the life I had imagined for myself way back when (lol). I’ve had several surgeries to try and alleviate the pain, but it still persists. Most recently, my pain management physician has recommended a medial branch block so let’s look into what that is precisely.


A medial branch block is a type of diagnostic spinal injection of an anesthetic drug or steroid used to temporarily block the pain signals coming to the brain from the medial nerves. Medial nerves are small nerves that feed out from the facet joints of your spine and carry pain signals from the facet joints to your brain. Facet joints are joints in your spine that allow for movement between your vertebrae.


The hope in going through all this is to discover that the pain is or isn’t caused by the facet joints. There are 3 possible outcomes: novocaine the dentist uses to numb your tooth during dental work, to numb the small nerves coming off some of the facet joints in my back to hopefully allow me to stand up straight. He’ll be using the anesthetic drug rather than the steroid because I once had a mild reaction to an oral steroid, so he has to assume I’m allergic to all steroids or risk a major reaction from the injection. So, for me, they are going to inject a drug, similar to the

 

  1. The pain does not go away: meaning my back pain is definitely not coming from the medial nerves so it’s not a facet joint problem.
  2. The pain eases or goes away for a few hours but returns: meaning my pain is most likely coming from the medial nerves so it is a facet joint problem and we can pursue further treatment options.
  3. The pain might go away and not come back for several days: if my doctor were able to use a steroid injection,this would mean the pain is most likely coming from these medial nerves he injected and we can pursue continued treatment options.

So, I’m hoping to get a few hours of relief and to perhaps be able to stand up straight for the first time in several years, fingers crossed (lol). For me, even to get 2 hours of pain relief and I will be beside myself with joy because it means I have another option, rather than just symptom relief for y pain. If I can actually stand up straight (dare I dream lol), I will probably cry and will go for a walk with my husband outside to get as much out of the anesthetic as possible. Then, I will go back to see my pain doctor in a few weeks wondering what the next steps are in this journey. But first, I have to go through the evaluation by my pain doctor to see if I’m a good candidate for the medial branch block.


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