Branch nerves extend out from the facet joints in the spine and carry pain signals from these joints. A branch nerve block temporarily interrupts the pain signal being carried by the branch nerves.
The day of the branch nerve block procedure, patients are advised to avoid strenuous activities and to get plenty of rest. The procedure begins with an IV line so that the patient can receive adequate relaxation medicine, as needed. Lying on an x-ray table, the skin will be treated with a numbing medicine. Using X-ray guidance, a needle is directed above the medial branch nerve. Drops of contrast dye are then injected to ensure that the medicine is only applied to the medial branch nerves. Then, a small amount of numbing medicine will be injected into each targeted nerve.
The entire process generally takes 15 to 30 minutes. The patient is then left to rest on the table for about 20 to 30 minutes following the procedure. The patient is then asked to move and try to provoke the previous pain. The patient may or may not experience immediate pain relief depending on if the branch nerves that were injected are carrying pain signals to the brain.