Facet and medial branch blocks are procedures that are typically used in patients who have back pain that is due to arthritic changes in the facet joints or those who have mechanical low back pain. A facet block is an injection of a local anesthetic along with a steroid into a joint in the spine. Similarly a medial branch block is the introduction of a local anesthetic but it is placed outside the joint space closer to the nerve of the joint known as the medial branch. These injections both have the possibility to be therapeutic as well as diagnostic. There are three possible outcomes to this procedure:
- The pain does not go away. (Which may indicate that the pain is not coming from the arthritic facet joint.) This outcome serves as providing diagnostic information.
- The pain goes away for some time, but then the original pain comes back and fails to receive any relief. (This would mean that the pain’s origin is most likely the joint, but the steroid was not providing relief.) This outcome is also diagnostic.
- The pain goes away following the block. (Which may come back later, but as time passes eventually subsides.) This outcome serves to be therapeutic and may have a long lasting effect on the pain.