Are You Ready For A Pain-Free Life?
Enjoying sport, exercise, travel, and social activities make up part of an exciting life. Consistently pursuing careers and working hard is part of a fulfilling life. Both are difficult to achieve with chronic back pain. Over 60 million Americans experience some degree of back pain, and doctors link many of these cases to underlying spinal conditions. To diagnose and treat these conditions, a spinal specialist can use both medial branch block and radiofrequency ablation.
What's behind my back pain?
The back and spine are complex parts of the body consisting of bones, nerves, ligaments, and discs. Due to arthritis, the wear and tear of bones, some patients experience chronic back or neck pain. Other symptoms include sciatica, weakness, stiffness, and even reduced organ function. Common causes of back pain include spondylosis, herniated discs, or degenerative disc disease. These conditions, if identified early, respond well to non-surgical treatment. However, if there is no improvement over time, a medial branch block or radiofrequency ablation may help.
What is a medial branch block?
If the medical team believes the source of the pain is related to medial nerves, the patient may benefit from a medial branch block (MBB). The facet joints are often the culprit. These are small bony projections on each vertebra that connect for stability. The nearby medial nerves become irritated if the facet joint wears away or produces bone spurs. MBB is a medical procedure that deposits anesthetic medication and a steroid near the nerves and damaged joints. The medical team uses X-ray fluoroscopy to locate the joints and nerves. The drug is then injected into a space near the nerves, often at several levels. MBB is a non-invasive procedure that takes about 1 hour, so the patient leaves the same day.
Feel the burn
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is another procedure that takes treatment a step further. RFA uses radio waves to burn the ends of the medial nerves and starts with the same fluoroscopy technique as MBB. The doctor will use local anesthesia first. Then an electrode goes to the area near the facet joints. The electrode burns off the ends of the nerves. This process prevents the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain, reducing pain.
MBB vs RFA
Both treatments have similar processes but different outcomes and objectives. Medial branch block is often used as a diagnostic tool. The doctor can confirm if there is indeed an issue with the facet joints or disc. The pain relief is also short-lived, lasting about 2-3 months on average. Some patients opt for multiple MBB treatments per year. Radiofrequency ablation is often used after MBB for long-term relief. On average, RFA results can last up to a year or longer. Over that period, the nerve ends will regrow, and the pain may return. Radiofrequency ablation can also be used for knee pain, varicose veins, sciatica, and other conditions.
Goodbye pain, hello freedom
Joint pain, especially in the spine, can limit movement, reducing the quality of life. Many patients try different treatment options without success. MBB and RFA can provide relief that will allow patients to move pain-free and enjoy activities again. A medial branch block is a diagnostic tool that may lead to RFA. The doctor will determine the best course of action to reduce pain.