Your spine is comprised of small bones called Vertebrae. There are small joints between each vertebrae known as facet joints in cervical, thoracic and lumbar areas. Because of arthritis, these joints may be the source of pain in many patients. This can also happen with whiplash injuries. In addition patients who have had spinal fusion may develop facet arthritis above and below the fusion because of postural compensation. The pain is typically worse on twisting, turning and bending backwards or sideways. It can be limited to neck, thoracic areas a lower back. This kind of pain does not usually radiate down the legs or arms but may reach shoulders, back and thighs.
Facet joints have double nerve supply meaning that a minimum of two nerves need to be blocked at each level to get proper pain relief.
Typically, patients initially undergo diagnostic medial branch block first as a test. This is known as medial branch block. Following this, they may be candidates for a more, longer-lasting procedure known as Radiofrequency Denervation or Ablation when the nerves to these joints are lesioned. This usually results in a relief that may last for months. Many patients will get a significant amount of relief and may be able to avoid major surgery.
After the procedure, patients are advised to take it easy and next day continue everyday activities. The relief from the test block or diagnostic medial branch may not last long enough. Your physician may recommend the second part of the procedure known as Radiofrequency Denervation or Ablation. Following this block, patients may be somewhat sore for a few days but then experience a long lasting relief, usually for many months