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What are medial branch blocks and epidural injections?

Chronic back pain caused by osteoarthritis or inflammation in the spine can take an enormous toll on your quality of life, but you don’t have to suffer indefinitely.

Minimally invasive procedures such as medial branch blocks or epidural injections can manage chronic back pain by identifying and treating the nerve or nerves that are causing the pain.

Medial branch block

Osteoarthritis can cause degeneration of the facet joints, and the only purpose of the medial branch nerves is to carry pain signals from these damaged joints to the brain. During a medial branch block, anesthetic is injected around these nerves, effectively turning them off.

Medial branch blocks are often used as a diagnostic tool to identify which nerves are transmitting pain signals so that a later procedure, radiofrequency rhizotomy, can be used to permanently disable them.

Epidural Injection

Inflammation in the spine causes swelling and irritation to nerves in the spinal column, often resulting in pain in the neck, arm, leg or back. Epidural injections involve injecting a combination of anti-inflammatory and anesthetic medication into the epidural space between the vertebrae and the spinal cord. They can be an effective treatment for pain caused by arthritis, spinal stenosis, spondylolysis, or disc herniation.

You may need several epidural injections a few weeks apart to achieve pain relief. For most people, epidural injections provide temporary relief that lasts several months.