Alleviating Lower Back Pain

Affecting almost 40% of American adults, lower back pain (LBP) is a common problem. While a minor condition for some, chronic LBP can be debilitating and significantly disrupt daily life. The rise of LBP birthed various treatment options to manage and alleviate the condition. Some treatments, like pain medication, can help temporarily, but for a more advanced option, doctors will often suggest a lumbar medial branch block. This non-invasive option may help resolve lower back pain.

Block pain effectively

Lumbar medial branch block is an in-office procedure pain specialists and other medical personnel use to treat LBP. The process targets and blocks the nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals from the lumbar facet joints in the spine. A medial branch block involves the injection of a local anesthetic and a steroid into the medial branch nerves in the lower back region. The procedure temporarily numbs the nerves to relieve lower back pain. This treatment option offers 3 excellent benefits for individuals with chronic lower back pain.

1. Diagnostic capabilities

In addition to controlling pain, the lumbar medial branch block plays a crucial role in accurately diagnosing the source of lower back pain. In most cases, the doctor predicts that the pain originates from the lumbar facet joints. The lumbar medial branch block is a fast, cost-effective way to achieve a definitive diagnosis. By blocking the medial branch nerves and observing the patient’s response, doctors can determine if the pain originates from the facet joints.

2. Targeted pain relief

The goal of a lumbar medial branch block is to provide targeted and specific pain relief for individuals with lower back pain caused by facet joints. The doctor uses an x-ray system called fluoroscopy to direct the needle to the lumbar region. This action numbs the medial branch nerves that transmit pain signals from the facet joints. A branch block provides a more targeted approach than traditional pain medication. Oral medication offers general pain relief to the area, but a branch block bypasses the liver and other metabolic processes to send the drug straight to the potential source. While the pain relief only lasts a short period, the procedure sets up other long-term options.

3. Long-term pain management

A lumbar medial branch block also provides a route to long-term pain management for individuals with chronic lower back pain. For instance, the next step may involve radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the medial branch, which damages the nerves and prevents communication with the brain. This is done once the diagnostic lumbar medial branch block confirms that the facet joints are the source of lower back pain. This option ensures the patient receives long-term relief lasting several months while avoiding surgery.

Post-treatment considerations

After undergoing a lumbar medial branch block, patients are advised to rest and avoid strenuous activities for a short time. This allows for proper healing and minimizes the risk of complications. Patients may experience temporary soreness or discomfort at the injection site, but this should subside within a few days. The healthcare provider will typically provide specific instructions for additional post-treatment care, including pain management strategies and follow-up appointments.

Is the branch block right for you?

Lumbar medial branch block is a valuable treatment option for individuals with lower back pain caused by the lumbar facet joints. This treatment is a suitable option for chronic lower back pain that cannot be relieved by other conservative treatments. A healthcare provider can determine if the branch block procedure is the best option through a comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and diagnostic tests. With the right approach, the patient can be on course for a pain-free life.