Nerve and facet blocks use a combination of local anesthetic and steroid for diagnostic purposes to identify pain generators. These blocks can also be used therapeutically to “block” a painful condition. Unfortunately, these procedures do not provide lasting benefit and are best used as part of an overall treatment plan to relieve discomfort temporarily while engaging in an active rehabilitation program.
In order to determine if facet joints are responsible for neck or back pain, medial branch blocks are performed. A medial branch block is a block that is performed under fluoroscopy (x
-ray), and local anesthetic (numbing medicine) is injected on the nerves in the back or neck that supply the facet joint. Following the procedure, patients are asked to keep a pain diary to record any pain relief, the amount of pain relief, and for how long. Based on the response to this block, it can be determined if you are a candidate for medial branch radiofrequency ablation (rhizotomy). Patient selection is important to achieving successful results.