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Pain Treatments

Thoracic Facet Joint Block

Thoracic Facet Joint Block

A thoracic facet joint block, also called a medial branch block, is an injection of a strong local anesthetic on the medial nerves which supply the facet joints in the mid back. Patients who suffer from back pain due to inflamed facet joints could potentially benefit from a thoracic facet joint block. The procedure is considered diagnostic, rather than therapeutic— in other words, your response to the medial branch block will help determine the best pain relief solution for you.

The doctor will numb your back with medication. Then, guided by an x-ray, he will:

  • Insert a thin needle into your back and look at the placement under x-ray
  • Inject numbing medication to temporarily block the nerve to the facet joint

Usually, the procedure takes less than 15 minutes and you can go home the same day.

If the treated facet joint is the source of pain, patients report pain relief within the first few hours after the injection. The pain will return later that day as the local anesthetic wears off. Longer-term relief is obtained with the radiofrequency nerve ablation procedure. To qualify for this procedure by your insurance, you must have the initial block, followed by a confirmation injection a week or two later.

How long the pain relief lasts varies person to person. For some, the relief lasts several months or longer. If the treatment works for you, you can have periodic injections to stay pain-free.

The risk of a complication from facet joint block is very low. Rarely, complications include bleeding or infection at the injection site, which is unusual for a facet joint injection. Most of the time, these effects resolve within a few hours.

Unlike some of the other injections, we want you to be active within the first 4-6 hours after this injection. This is important to help us determine if the procedure is successful. Do not drive the day of the injection if you have had any form of anesthesia.

You can continue your regular diet and medications immediately.

Please record your percentage of pain relief for the first 4-6 hours after the injection. Your response after this initial injection will be a major deciding factor in determining whether a confirmation injection is to be performed.

Not sure what treatment options are best for you?  Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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