Chronic pain in your neck or back is way too common — up to 70% of adults experience ongoing neck pain, and up to 80% have back pain that won’t quit — but what can you do?
You’ve tried physical therapy and medication, but nothing seems to subdue the constant aches and pain. We get it.
Dr. Stanley Mathew and our team at American Rehabilitation Medicine specialize in controlling chronic pain of all types. We always start with conservative treatments, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have stronger solutions. As a physiatrist, Dr. Mathew strives to resolve chronic pain without surgical intervention and has changed the lives of our patients throughout Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, and Anamosa, Iowa, with his effective techniques.
One of the most successful is the medial branch nerve block. Here’s a look at how this proven treatment can relieve your chronic pain and even diagnose the underlying problem.
What and where are medial branch nerves?
To understand your medial branch nerves, we need to take a closer look at your spine — specifically, your spinal joints. The facet joints in your spine allow you to bend, twist, and move. They can also be a significant source of neck and back pain.
The problem starts with an injury or inflammation and then travels through the medial branch nerves that stem from the spinal nerves and into the facet joints.
A chronic condition called facet joint syndrome causes debilitating low back pain that can severely impact your daily life.
What is a medial branch nerve block?
A medial branch nerve injection is like the superhero of back pain relief. This injection delivers immediate relief by targeting the affected nerve or nerves with a combination of the anesthetic lidocaine and a potent steroid. Its primary goal is to confirm whether the facet joint is the source of your pain, which helps Dr. Mathew determine the best course of treatment moving forward.
By disconnecting the pain signal from your back to your brain, the medial branch nerve block alleviates your discomfort and puts you — and Dr. Mathew — on the path to a solution.
This outpatient procedure takes as little as 15-30 minutes here in our office. We can give you conscious sedation or a local skin numbing to ensure your comfort, but you must remain aware to experience the injection's effects fully. We clean the treatment area, and, with the help of fluoroscopy (real-time X-ray), Dr. Mathew expertly guides the needle to the affected medial branch nerve of your facet joint, delivering the numbing medication you need to finally stop your pain.
Studies show that medial branch nerve blocks have a 92% success rate, delivering significant pain relief for 1-4 weeks after the injection — plenty of time to address the underlying problem.
How the medial branch nerve block detects your pain problem
Your spine is a complicated area of anatomy, and neck and back pain can stem from multiple sources. The medial branch nerve block helps Dr. Mathew identify the specific nerves involved in your chronic pain condition so he knows which to treat.
If he suspects the problems originate in your facet joints, he injects the medial branch nerve block in that area, targeting those nerves. If you experience significant pain relief, it's time to consider the next level of relief via percutaneous radiofrequency ablation or an endoscopic rhizotomy to stop the pain signals permanently.
If you have back or neck pain that just won’t quit, call or click to request an appointment with triple-board certified Dr. Mathew and get to the bottom of your chronic pain.