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A medial branch facet block is a diagnostic procedure that helps to identify and treat a painful facet joint. Facet joints are the joints between each vertebrae in the spine, allowing the spine to bend, flex, and twist, with one located on either side of the spine at each level. The goal of a medial branch facet block is two fold:
Prior to the procedure, a local anesthetic will be injected to numb the skin and tissue around the facet joint that is suspected of causing the pain. Once the tissue is numb, your doctor will insert a needle into the skin, and guide the needle down to the facet joint. A contrast solution is injected through the needle, which helps your doctor see the area on the fluoroscopy, confirming the proper position of the needle.
Once the needle is positioned correctly, your doctor will inject an anesthetic medication around the medial branch nerves. As these nerves carry signals to and around the facet joints, the injection is designed to interrupt the pain signal. If the temporary injection relieves your pain, your doctor may inject a longer-lasting anti-inflammatory steroid to decrease inflammation and irritation. If the temporary injection does not relieve your pain, your doctor may test nearby facet joints to identify the correct root of your pain.